B R E A K D O W N
San Jose State vs. Hawaii
By Jack Danilewicz
Wednesday, March 6, 2002
San Jose State (10-21) vs. Hawaii (24-5)
Thursday, March 7, 8 a.m. Hawaiian Time
WAC Tournament in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Radio: 1420 KCCN AM
PLAYERS TO WATCH
SAN JOSE STATE
G 10 Brandon Hawkins
(15.6. points per game, 4.3 assists per game)
F 45 Marion Thurmond
(6.4 ppg, 4.5 rebounds per game)
G 32 Phil Calvert
(9.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
F 23 Andre Valentine
(7.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg)
F 15 David Granucci
(career-high 17 points came in January win over Rainbow Warriors)
G - #1 Predrag Savovic
(19.4 points per game, 4.9 rebounds per game)
G/F - #23 Carl English
(16.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg)
G - #15 Mark Campbell
(4.0 assists per game, team-best 49 steals)
F - #21 Mindaugas Burneika
(9.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg)
F - #2 Phil Martin
(9.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg)
G - #3 Mike McIntyre
(10.2 ppg, 92 career steals)
C - #14 Haim Shimonovich
(7.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg)
With a 24-5 mark, a regular-season co-WAC championship and a Ratings Percentage Index ranking that places them 34th, Hawaii would seem in perfect alignment for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament in the event that the Rainbow Warriors are unable to win the conference tournament.
The Hawaii coaching staff isn't taking anything for granted, however. Thursday morning's first-round match-up with San Jose State could be the game that will put them over the top for an NCAA bid. Should they win, Hawaii would be 25-5, a win-total hard to ignore. An early exit from the tournament, however, and the Rainbow Warriors could open themselves up to a possible snub.
To that end, Hawaii need look no further than Southern Illinois, which is considered to be on the bubble by most projections, despite a 26-7 record, a Missouri Valley Conference regular-season championship and an RPI ranking of 51. The Salukis lost their conference tournament title game to Creighton and now find themselves playing the waiting game.
Hawaii's best bet is obviously to take care of business on the court, where the Rainbow Warriors are playing as well as anyone, having won 18 of their last 21 games, including 12 of their last 18 games away from home. Hawai‘i's 24 wins are one shy of the school record of 25 set during the 1989-90 season.
Hawaii sophomore Carl English is playing his best basketball of the season, after averaging 24.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.0 steals in a pair of games last week. Coming into the two games, English was averaging 15.4 points per contest, but cored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds against Nevada last Thursday before rolling up a career-high 33 points in an 82-79 win over Fresno State, which gave Hawaii its share of the regular season WAC title and the number one seed in this week's conference tournament. The Rainbow Warriors were without senior guard Predrag Savovic, who sat out with back spasms. He is expected to play on Thursday.
The Spartans, meanwhile, had lost six in a row before beating Nevada on Saturday. They followed that win with a 58-57 triumph over Rice on Tuesday in their WAC-Tournament opener.
Will San Jose State play its 1-2-2 zone against Hawaii? The Rainbow Warriors coaching staff expected the Spartans to play 1-2-2 zone against them last month when the teams met in Honolulu.
In fact, Wallace thought his team would see the zone more in the early season after the Rainbow Warriors were hurt by Syracuse in their first-round NCAA Tournament game last March, but Hawaii's ability to shoot the three-pointer has prompted most teams to play man-to-man.
If anything, the Rainbow Warriors are at their best when playing against teams that overplay the ball, defensively, as they have been able to generate a steady barrage of back-door cuts leading to easy lay-ups.
With that in mind, I look for San Jose State to take its chances with a zone, which will also help the Spartans to play at the pace they would like.
WHAT HAWAII NEEDS TO DO TO WIN
Keep Haim Shimonovich out of foul trouble. In the first meeting between the teams - a 57-53 loss to San Jose State - he played a season-low 13 minutes (scoring only two points), and his post defense was sorely missed, as the Spartans' David Granucci had a career-night, scoring 17 points to go with six offensive rebounds.
Hawaii is not the same team, defensively, when Shimonovich is out of the lineup. Although the individual defensive responsibility of keeping Granucci under wraps will be Phil Martin's assignment, Hawaii's ability to play "help" defense has gone a long way toward its success to date, so Shimonovich, who averages 28.4 minutes per game, will need to log his usual amount of minutes for Hawaii to play up to its potential.
The Rainbow Warriors also have to take care of the ball. In three of Hawaii's five losses this year, including the January loss at San Jose State, the Rainbow Warriors had more turnovers than assists, a recurring theme from last season. The Rainbow Warriors have also been held under 60 points in four of those setbacks.
WHAT SAN JOSE STATE NEEDS TO DO TO WIN
San Jose State needs to play defense by way of its offense. Offensively, the Spartans need to control the tempo. Defensively, the Spartans need to defend Hawaii on the perimeter. The Spartans are just seventh in the WAC in defending the three-point shot, with their opponents shooting 38.2 percent from behind the arc.
Conversely, Hawaii is second in the WAC in three-pointers made with a school-record 211 to date and has made at least seven three-pointers in each of its 15 conference wins. The Rainbow Warriors tallied a school-record 14 against Fresno State earlier in the year.
As was often the case, when the two teams met in San Jose State earlier this year, I look for the Spartans to milk the shot clock to the end before moving in to score on the offensive end in an attempt to limit the number of possessions Hawaii gets.
San Jose State wants to keep this game in the 50s - and with good reason - as the Rainbow Warriors have been held under the 60-point plateau in four of their five losses.
Hawaii's Phil Martin opposite San Jose State's David Granucci - Just as Hawaii is not the same team when Haim Shimonovich is out of the line-up, the Spartans need Granucci's inside presence to have a chance.
With both Martin and Haim Shimonovich in foul trouble for much of the first meeting between the schools, Granucci had enjoyed a career night, scoring 17 points, while grabbing seven offensive rebounds in a game-high 39 minutes.
It was a different story in the February 16th meeting in Honolulu (a 71-46 Rainbow Warrior rout) as Martin tightened up, defensively, to hold Granucci to just two points and three rebounds in 31 minutes.
Hawaii's Mark Campbell opposite San Jose State's Brandon Hawkins - Hawkins is the Spartans' go-to-guy when it needs a basket at crunch time, but it is his quickness on the defensive end that will be critical to San Jose State's chances.
When in sync, Hawaii runs the "flex" offense as well as anybody in the country, and Campbell is very much the catalyst. The Rainbow Warriors finished the WAC regular season first in the statistic that matters most. It goes without saying that the Spartans will look to disrupt Hawaii's offensive flow. That means Hawkins will have to have a big game.
Campbell's on-the-ball defense has been stellar all year, meanwhile, and he will need another big effort here, as Hawkins goes to the boards as well as any guard in the WAC, having averaged 4.6 rebounds per outing for the year. In Hawaii's blowout victory over the Spartans last month, Campbell held Hawkins to only six points in 21 minutes.
Hawaii 70, San Jose State 58 Even if Predrag Savovic isn't at full strength, the Rainbow Warriors figure to have too much balance for the Spartans. I look for Mike McIntyre and Mindaugas Burneika to give Hawaii a big lift off the bench.
Jack Danilewicz is a College Basketball Analyst for the Rainbow Sports Network.