Hawaii vs. Xavier
By Jack Danilewicz
Wednesday, March 13, 2002
Hawaii (27-5) vs. Xavier (25-5)
Friday, March 15, (approximately 10 a.m. Hawaiian Time).
American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas
Radio: 1420 KCCN AM
PLAYERS TO WATCH
F - #30 David West
(18.5 points per game, 9.8 rebounds per game)
G - #10 Romain Sato
(15.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg)
G - #0 Lionel Chalmers
(12.1 ppg, 125 assists)
G - #3 Kevin Frey
(8.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg)
G - #13 Dave Young
(8.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg)
F - #25 Keith Jackson
(shooting 50.5 percent from the field)
G - #1 Predrag Savovic
(20.0 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game)
G/F - #23 Carl English
(15.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg)
G - #15 Mark Campbell
(4.5 assists per game, team-best 53 steals)
F - #21 Mindaugas Burneika
(9.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg)
F - #2 Phil Martin
(8.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg)
G - #3 Mike McIntyre
(10.1 ppg, 71 career steals)
C - #14 Haim Shimonovich
(7.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg)
It was definitely quantity of victories rather than quality victories that paved No. 22 Xavier's way into the NCAA Tournament. Although the Musketeers failed to beat a single team ranked in the RPI's top 40, Xavier made it a habit of winning the games it was supposed to. In fact, only Purdue (on the road), Missouri and Cincinnati beat the Musketeers during the non-conference season.
If anything, 25th-ranked Hawaii can relate to the Musketeers' consistency, having enjoyed a season of its own that was largely void of large peaks and valleys. The Rainbow Warriors and Musketeers have one common opponent – Wisconsin. Hawaii beat the Badgers 60-57, while Xavier prevailed 57-48 in their match-up.
As for individual match-ups, Hawaii's focus will be largely on Xavier center David West in this one.
West, who packs 232 pounds into a 6-foot-9 frame, was one of 20 finalists for the Naismith Player of the Year Award after finishing Atlantic Ten conference play listed among league leaders in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots and assists. No team has stopped him yet. He is extremely versatile and capable of stepping outside and shooting the 15-foot jump shot in addition to being a good post player.
But even if West has a big game, Xavier will need a total-team effort to beat Hawaii, with five or six players scoring in double-figures. To that end, sophomore guard Romain Sato has emerged as a scorer for the Musketeers and has taken some of the pressure off West.
He has been Xavier's scoring leader eleven times, only one less than West, who has been the Musketeers' high-point man twelve times. Musketeer point guard Lionel Chalmers will also present Hawaii a challenge defensively.
Conversely, balance has carried Hawaii to date. The Rainbow Warriors have six players – Predrag Savovic, Carl English, Mindaugas Burneika, Mike McIntyre, Phil Martin and Haim Shimonovich (7.8) - averaging better than seven points per outing.
Can Hawaii break through with its first NCAA Tournament win? Despite some strong showings in the past, the Rainbow Warriors are 0-4 lifetime in the tournament.
WHAT HAWAII NEEDS TO DO TO WIN
The Rainbow Warriors will need balance between their inside and outside game, offensively, and that means successfully shooting the three-pointer. Hawaii has converted a school-record 233 three-pointers to date.
The Magic Number remains seven for Hawaii, which has tallied at least that many three-pointers in 22 outings this year. WAC Tournament Most Valuable Player Predrag Savovic and teammate Carl English were the toughest match-up in the WAC by season's end, but both figure to meet the most resistance, defensively, that they have seen this year.
The Musketeers' opponents are making just 30 percent from beyond the three-point line, while Hawaii shoots 38.2 percent from beyond the arc. No two statistics are perhaps more telling for both teams.
If Savovic, English and McIntyre can play near their potential, and hit some outside shots early, it will open up Hawaii's inside game, led by Martin and Shimonovich. Rather than work from the inside game out, however, I believe Hawaii has to take control of this game on the perimeter. Historically, the teams that advance in the tournament are those with solid guard play.
The Rainbow Warriors have to create from the backcourt, with penetration by Campbell, Savovic and McIntyre. While Savovic has the quickness to create scoring opportunities for himself, Xavier defends well enough that he will find shots hard to come by without the aid of a screen. That's not necessarily bad news for Savovic, who plays his best against first-rate competition.
Hawaii will also need to go hard to the glass and deny the Musketeers, who have good size and agility, second-chance opportunities. With that in mind, a critical player from Hawaii's point of view has to be Phil Martin.
When at the top of his game, his size and quickness take Hawaii to another level on both ends of the floor. Moreover, in a game of this magnitude it is often not the established impact players (as in Savovic or English) but their supporting cast that ultimately makes the difference.
WHAT XAVIER NEEDS TO DO TO WIN THE GAME
The Musketeers need to win the rebounding war. Led by West, who has been Xavier's top rebounder in 22 of his team's 30 games, the Musketeers are out-rebounding their opponents by four per outing.
Conversely, rebounding has been a concern all year long for Hawaii, which has been able to compensate for this shortcoming largely by its offensive proficiency at the other end.
Defensively, the Musketeers have to find a way to disrupt Hawaii's offense. The only team to stop Hawaii to date has been the Rainbow Warriors themselves, who have logged more turnovers than assists in three of their five losses.
When the Rainbow Warriors take care of the ball, they are tough to defend when running the "flex" offense because of the match-up problems they create with English and Savovic. Hawaii can go with a big lineup or a small lineup, and both English and Savovic have the offensive skills to take their man down on the block and post him up.
The Musketeers have the athleticism and quickness to play with anybody, so this is a critical match-up. Xavier would also like to get Haim Shimonovich in foul trouble. His imposing presence in the paint makes Hawaii a solid defensive team. When unable to play his usual amount of minutes, Hawaii struggles on the defensive end, however.
Xavier also needs to take better care of the basketball. The Musketeers have more turnovers than assists to date, a bad omen in college basketball in the month of March.
Hawaii's defense opposite Xavier's offense - Given Hawaii's ability to run "the flex," it goes without saying that Hawaii will score its share. How well the Rainbow Warriors can defend the Musketeers will go a long way in deciding the outcome. Hawaii led the WAC in scoring defense (62.8 points per game) and limited 14 opponents to less than 60 points.
Hawaii's Mark Campbell versus Xavier's Lionel Chalmers – Campbell is the main reason Hawaii has gone from a team with more turnovers than assists a year ago to this season's WAC-leader in assist-turnover-ratio.
Campbell is the catalyst. He gets the Rainbow Warriors into their offense. His on-the-ball defense has also kept most teams from operating at their best. Chalmers has great offensive skills - he's led the Musketeers in scoring no less than six times - and the quickness to make Campbell work at the other end.
Whoever wins this individual battle can set the tone for his team. "Tempo" has been very important to Hawaii, which excels in a half-court game, all season, and Campbell's greater challenge will be to keep the pace of this game to the Rainbow Warriors' liking.
Hawaii 83, Xavier 78 In what figures to be one of the best first-round match-ups, I like Hawaii to advance. The Rainbow Warriors have enough balance with their inside-outside game, and they get great production off of the bench from both Mindaugas Burneika and Mike McIntyre. Both players have been critical to Hawaii's success to date, and I look for them to have big games against the Musketeers. Moreover, the Rainbow Warriors are playing their best basketball of the season, having now won 21 of their last 24 games, including 15 of their last 21 games away from home.
Jack Danilewicz is a College Basketball Analyst for the Rainbow Sports Network.