Rainbow Warriors draw UC Riverside
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
The University of Hawai'i men's basketball team didn't seem too bothered when it found out yesterday it will not get to play on national television for the ESPNU BracketBusters.
That's because the Rainbow Warriors are focused on their chance to bust the Western Athletic Conference standings this week on national television.
Hawai'i will play a nonconference road game at UC Riverside on Feb. 23, it was announced yesterday. The game was not one of the 14 selected for broadcast on an ESPN station as part of the sixth annual BracketBusters.
"Based on our record, we wouldn't warrant one of the TV games," Hawai'i head coach Bob Nash said. "Obviously, we wanted one. But with Utah State, Nevada and Boise State getting the TV games, I think that's a good representation of the WAC."
The 'Bows, who are on a three-game winning streak, are 10-11 overall and tied for third place in the WAC at 6-3.
UC Riverside is 5-15 and in eighth place in the Big West Conference at 2-7 under first-year head coach Jim Wooldridge.
"They have some good athletes, but I think they went through some changes, and just haven't come together well enough yet to win consistently," Nash said. "We have to look at it as an opportunity get a road win if we can play our best."
The 'Bows and Highlanders were among 100 teams in the pool for selection to the 14 BracketBusters games.
All nine WAC teams were eligible, but only three will be showcased on an ESPN station: Utah State will host UC Santa Barbara; Boise State will host Siena; Nevada will play at Southern Illinois.
The BracketBusters was created in 2003 as a national showcase for the so-called "mid-major" programs of college basketball. Hawai'i was selected for a national television game in 2003 (Kent State), 2004 (Southern Illinois) and 2005 (Wisconsin-Milwaukee).
Nash was pleased that the Feb. 23 game will be in California. The 'Bows will play a road game at Fresno State on Feb. 20 before heading to Riverside.
"It's on the West Coast, thank goodness," Nash said. "That should help us because we still have (WAC) games before and after."
UC Riverside will play a mandatory "return" game in Honolulu next season.
Hawai'i will get its opportunity to play on national television on Saturday when it plays a WAC road game at Nevada. That game will be televised at 1 p.m. (Hawai'i time) on ESPN2.
"It would be a huge game for us no matter what," senior guard Riley Luettgerodt said. "But it is on TV, so a lot of people will see it. It's a chance for people who maybe wouldn't be seeing Hawai'i to watch us, so you want to represent in the best way possible."
It will be Hawai'i's first appearance on national television this season. The only other opportunity could come in the championship game of the WAC Tournament.
"When I see my friends playing on ESPN, I give them a call," senior forward Bobby Nash said. "So you know there's more people watching than usual. But you still have to play the game like it was just another game."
Hawai'i's last appearance on national television came in a controversial 69-68 road loss at Nevada last season.
"We feel like we got robbed there last year," Luettgerodt said. "And we're right in the WAC race with a couple other teams, including Nevada, so we're thinking more about that than ESPN."
OWSLEY NOT CLEARED
Starting forward P.J. Owsley did not participate in practice yesterday because of an injured right knee.
He suffered the injury in a victory over New Mexico State last Thursday, and did not suit up for Saturday's win over Louisiana Tech.
Bob Nash said a decision on Owsley's status for the road trip will be made later this week.
"We want to wait and see whether it's worth it for him to travel," Nash said. "If he's not ready, the travel could cause more swelling, so it might be better to keep him home and have him rest it."
The 'Bows were even more short-handed for yesterday's practice as senior point guard Matt Gibson had an excused absence.
"It's a class he needs for graduation, so he needs to be there," Nash said. "He'll catch up with us the rest of this week."
Reach Dayton Morinaga at firstname.lastname@example.org.