With this post, we begin our preview countdown through the 2009-10 Western Athletic Conference men’s basketball field.
Team: #9 Hawaii
Coach: Bob Nash, third season (24-36)
Last year’s record: 13-17 (5-11 WAC, 8th)
Why they’re here: The Rainbow Warriors have struggled to gain any traction under third-year coach Bob Nash. Quite simply, they can’t consistently score the points necessary to compete in the run-and-gun Western Athletic Conference. Only Louisiana Tech put fewer points on the scoreboard last season. Put the blame on a roster full of “shooters” who can’t — the Rainbow Warriors took the booby prize for worst shooting percentage in the league last year, and were an abysmal 28.3 percent from 3-point land.
Nash will be depending on a group of talented Division I transfers to beef up his squad’s scoring, particularly in the backcourt. It’s questionable whether Nash can put all those parts together, though, in a year when the WAC competition wont be taking any prisoners. The wimpy non-conference schedule may create false hopes that can’t be fulfilled come conference season.
This year, in a cost-cutting move, the WAC has dumped the tournament’s 8-9 seed play-in game. For the regular season’s last-place finisher, that means it’s game over. Unfortunately for the Rainbow Warriors, they will likely be the lonely team not making the mid-March trip to Reno.
Why they could finish higher: Nash is on the hot seat, and he knows it. Another season in the WAC’s basement and he’s probably out the door. Desperate coaches can sometimes pull off amazing feats of rejuvenation. There’s not a whole lot of separation in the WAC’s bottom tier, so if Hawaii’s backcourt transfers pan out, they could at least get themselves into a conference tournament seed.
Most Valuable Player: Roderick Flemings (16.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 36.0 mpg) — The WAC’s playing-time leader and the Rainbow Warriors’ workhorse, Flemings’ play singlehandedly kept Hawaii from sinking any further than it did. He needs to stop shooting the trey, though. From inside the arc, he’s a near-50-percent shooter. But from downtown, where he took 20 percent of his shots, he shoots just 31 percent. Those are wasted possessions.
Most Important Player: Dwain Williams — The sharpshooting Providence transfer will be expected to contribute big right away, and he’ll have to do so if the Rainbow Warriors want to go anywhere in a deep, talented WAC.
Non-conference degree of difficulty (scale of 1-5): 1 — OK, so they do play BYU and College of Charleston, but other than that, Hawaii’s schedule is chock-full of sweet, tasty cupcakes like McNeese State, Southern Utah and Northwestern State. An extra bonus deduction for almost never going on the road.
Fun fact: Thanks to exempt preseason tournaments, the Rainbow Warriors play only one non-conference game off their home floor — at UC Irvine of the Big West.
Predicted record: 12-17 (4-12 WAC)