Hawaii basketball was picked to land right where it left off in 2016-17 — fifth.
But hey, that beats the Big West prediction put forth last year, when the ‘Bows were tabbed eighth with basically nobody coming back.
UH’s 2017-18 preseason poll placement still might be a little low, but it’s not terribly surprising given a perceived lack of singular star power (no ‘Bows were picked to the preseason all-conference team). You kind of got the sense that the Big West media, as a whole, would be less charitable than some of the magazines and publications that were so high on UH as to pick the Rainbow Warriors first or second in recent weeks.
Well, UH did get two first-place votes today, as one of a whopping six schools to receive at least one. UC Irvine got 14 of 26, an astoundingly high number for a team that lost its three best offensive players in Luke Nelson, Jaron Martin and Ioannis Dimakopoulos. That speaks to the respect for Russell Turner and the Anteaters’ system (but also the state of the Big West).
I thought UH had a pretty good chance to land somebody on the preseason team, but it looks like Mike Thomas, Jack Purchase and Gibson Johnson split the vote in what was already a forward-heavy group around the league.
Five of the six selected were bigs: Temidayo Yussuf and Gabe Levin of Long Beach State, Chima Moneke of UC Davis, Tavrion Dawson of CSUN and Jackson Rowe of Cal State Fullerton. The other player? Gabe Vincent, UC Santa Barbara’s senior guard coming off a knee injury.
All of those guys could have big years. Or someone like Noah Allen could come out of nowhere and take the league by storm. UH has several players (including the aforementioned three) who could make an all-conference leap in the Big West.
I wouldn’t despair, UH fans. There’s no juggernaut in the league this year; it’s there for the taking for any team that can put something special together come February and March.
2017 Big West Preseason Media Poll
First-place votes in parentheses
1. UC Irvine (14)- 216 points
2. UC Davis (7) – 189
3. Cal State Fullerton (1) – 158
4. Long Beach State (1) – 153
5. Hawaii – 146 (2)
6. UC Santa Barbara (1) – 94
7. CSUN – 73
8. UC Riverside – 71
9. Cal Poly – 70
Full disclosure: I was the lone media member to pick Long Beach State to win. Despite some significant turnover for The Beach, I thought they’d be pretty potent with Yussuf, Levin and new point guard Bryan Alberts. The rest of my ballot went: UCD, UCI, UH, UCSB, CSUF, UCR, CSUN, CP.