Hawaii. When I saw the addition of that game in B.C. a while back I thought, "Oh, that's a cool setting and an easy win." I'm not so certain about the easy win anymore.
You see,I recently stayed up and watched all 24+ hours of ESPN's College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon and blogged about it for NBADraft.net (if you like to see a man descend into insanity, you can relive it here: http://www.nbadraft.net/ncaa-hoops-tip-marathon-chat). While the story of the marathon was KEVIN PANGOS, the team I was most surprised by was Hawaii. They have a lot of players I really took a shining to. Considering most of you sane folk were probably resting your weary eyes at the time, Here's an abbreviated breakdown by someone who hasn't had enough sleep this week...
Hawaii was picked to finish 4th in the WAC this year. I think they should exceed that expectation. They are an incredibly sound offensive basketball team who is able to attack in multiple ways. The focus of this breakdown will be the 4 players that really caught my eye on the (Rainbow) Warriors...
The Stud - Zane Johnson
Out of everyone in the tip-off marathon (yes, even KEVIN PANGOS), Johnson had far and away the prettiest shot. The 6' 6" SG/SF averaged 15 ppg last year and shot 40% down the arc. The body control he has in order to get balanced on his shot is remarkable. As we all know, the Zags have a tenancy to get killed by guys who can bomb it from beyond the arc. Johnson was 6-13 from 3 in the (Rainbow) Warrors opener and led Hawaii to an easy win. The senior was preseason 1st team All-WAC for a reason and will be the most dangerous player on the floor come Saturday.
The Big - Vander Joaquim
Hawaii's other 1st team All-WAC preseason pick, Joaquim is a 6' 10" junior center from Angola. While he's not exactly a bruiser, he does provide a big body that can actually match up with Sacre. After transfering from juco (College of Eastern Utah) before last year it took Joaquim a wile to find a grove, but he eventually settled in averaging 11.9 ppg and 9.1 rpg in WAC play. He also has experience with the Angolian national team. He's a legitimate big.
The Frosh - Shaquille Stokes
Last year's New York City Player of the Year is a freshman at Hawaii. No really. Unsurprisingly, he's the preseason pick to be WAC newcomer of the year. The 5' 10" PG game is almost a walking NYC baller stereotype - if you picture in your head what you think a NYC PG is, that's Stokes. His game is largely predicated on slashing and blowing by guys and but his shot isn't great. In the season opener he had 14 points (3-12 FGs, 2-7 3s, 6-9 FTs) and 5 assists. He's much smaller, but he's got a little Pargo in him. Considering defense isn't exactly our PGs strong suit, he could prove to be a match-up problem.
The Wild Card - Trevor Wiseman
This guy is weird to me. He's listed at 6' 7", but on the broadcast he looked more like 6' 10" (note: I wasn't suffering from sleep depraved hallucinations at the point). In the opener he had a double double with 19 points and 16 (!) boards against a more athletic Cal State Northridge team. He's also got the ball skills to bring it up the court and looks comfortable all over the floor. I fear him for some reason.
Anyway, long story short - don't sleep on Hawaii. The Zags should still win and could probably beat the (Rainbow) Warriors handily if they play sharp. But if they play like they did in the Eastern Washington game, a defeated bunch of Bulldogs will be boarding the plane back to Spokane this weekend.