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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 26, 2006

Hopefully, the bubble won't burst

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

University of Hawai'i baseball fans want to believe with all their hearts and memories.

We want to imagine that no matter what they might do the rest of this Western Athletic Conference Baseball Tournament the Rainbows have already done enough to be headed back to the NCAA Tournament after the longest absence in school history.

Gotta be, right? After a 40-victory regular season and national ranking, you'd like to think the 'Bows have earned their way into the 64-team field for the first time since 1993. After a 16-3 road record and Top 40 Ratings Performance Index, surely that 8-0 win over Louisiana Tech in the opener of the WAC Tournament yesterday was the clincher for the 41-13 'Bows.

But down deep we know better. Or, at least, we should after a trail of disappointments that stretch as long as the right-field line at Les Murakami Stadium.

Rather than re-open too many old wounds, we'll not present a full accounting of even the most egregious snubs. Suffice to say they encompass not just baseball but men's and women's basketball and other sports debunking notions of so-called magic numbers and sending conventional wisdom out the window.

Too many examples remind us that NCAA tournaments aren't really locks until some committee says so. Because you never know when there is another Peter Kendrick-like disaster lurking. Another Judith Holland selection committee ready to torment.

So while there was an audible exhale after the Rainbows took care of the opening day's business in impressive fashion yesterday, the feeling of relief will have to wait.

Ideally, of course, UH wins the WAC Tournament and the automatic NCAA berth that comes with it. But failing that the 'Bows just need to keep on winning because there is no definable finish line.

This time of the year, "it is not just what Hawai'i does," said Will Kimmey, who handicaps NCAA Tournament selection for Baseball America. "It is what does San Francisco do? What does Tulane or Pepperdine do? What does Elon do? All those things matter because every time a conference tournament is won by a team that you (didn't) expect to win then, maybe, there's just not room."

Indeed, the nightmare scenario would be for somebody other than UH or Fresno State to win the tournament, forcing the selection committee to choose its WAC at-large entry.

Would it be Fresno, which won the WAC regular season and the head-to-head series (two games to one) over UH? Or the 'Bows, who could have the better overall and road records? That's a choice you don't want to toss into the hands of a committee.

"It is probably a bubble-in situation (for UH)," Kimmey said. "They are on that edge and, I think, they are leaning in right now."

But anybody who has followed UH sports for anytime at all knows what can happen to bubbles at selection time.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.