It’s Christmas week, which means it’s Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic and SoFi Hawaii Bowl week for all you diehards (and us media types).
Be sure to get the right balance of family, gifts and egg nog between the non-stop action at the Stan Sheriff Center and Aloha Stadium.
For UH football, it’s a chance at a rare 10-win season, something last accomplished in 2010. The Rainbow Warriors last won the Hawaii Bowl in 2016, a 52-35 win over Middle Tennessee in Nick Rolovich’s first season as head coach.
The UH basketball team has already begun the DHC, making an impact on opening night Sunday with a 67-63 win over old WAC rival UTEP. Their reward? A showdown with No. 21 Washington in the semifinals tonight at 6. An upset win would give UH its first DHC championship game appearance on Christmas Day.
Those are the only sports in action over this portion of the holiday break.
Men’s basketball: No. 21 Washington (9-2) at Hawaii (8-3), 6 p.m. (ESPN2, KKEA 1420-AM)
Biggest game and opportunity the Rainbow Warriors have had in a while. It’s one thing to play an elite team like Oregon in hostile territory, like UH did a couple weeks ago, and quite another to get a rare chance at an explosive but young UW team in your own building, in front of what you’d expect to be a raucous crowd. The Huskies have three McDonald’s All-Americans to call upon — guard Quade Green and forwards Jaden McDaniels and Isaiah Stewart — and all three showed out in an 85-64 win over Ball State in the DHC first round, combining for 62 points. UH will need plenty more of what freshman big man Bernardo da Silva supplied against UTEP — a career-high 17 on 8-9 shooting — but with some made free throws. UH will have to contend with UW’s vaunted zone defense, and probably hit its fair share of outside shots. UH is 0-3 in DHC semifinal games. Is Year 11 of the tournament the year they make it to the final?
Football: BYU (7-5) at Hawaii (9-5), 3 p.m. (ESPN, KKEA 1420-AM)
UH can attain its seventh all-time 10-win season, but it will have to come against its old rival, a team it hasn’t beaten in five straight matchups. The Rainbow Warriors last beat the Cougars in 2001, the Rolovich-led 72-45 beatdown that was a heavy contributor in spawning this bowl game. UH is 4-4 all-time in the Hawaii Bowl, and 6-6 in all bowl games. Forty could be the magic number for UH — in all four of its Hawaii Bowl victories, it’s put up 40-plus, and it is 0-4 scoring under 40. UH is also 14-0 under Rolovich when scoring 40, and that mark goes to 25-0 when including Rolovich’s tenure as UH offensive coordinator. There’s a healthy chance the Warriors could have three 1,000-yard receivers for just the second time in program history and sixth time in FBS history. Cedric Byrd II is already there, and Jared Smart needs only 13 yards while JoJo Ward requires 25. BYU leads the series 23-8, including wins in the last two years under Kalani Sitake — one in Provo (49-23), one in Halawa (30-20). The series is 13-8 for the Cougars in the islands. It’s no wonder people hated them so much back in the day. BYU hasn’t played since Nov. 30, a 13-3 loss to San Diego State. Quarterback Zach Wilson has thrown for 2,108 yards in eight games this season (263.5 per game), with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
“That was a fun day, a great day for me and the team, but we haven’t brought it up too much with our guys. It is funny to think about, though.” pic.twitter.com/a9cwrtP87o
— Hawaii Warrior World (@hawaiiwworld) December 23, 2019
Men’s basketball: Houston (8-3) or Georgia Tech (5-5) at Hawaii, 1:30 p.m. or 3:30 p.m. (ESPN2, KKEA 1420-AM)
The Rainbow Warriors will have a tough opponent on Christmas regardless of the outcome against Washington. Houston and Georgia Tech battle at 2 p.m. Monday for the right to go to the Diamond Head championship. If it’s Kelvin Sampson’s Houston team that UH sees, it will be another long and athletic opponent. The last time UH saw the other UH was in 1977 — the Cougars have won all five meetings to date, all between 1966 and ’77. If it’s Josh Pastner’s Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, it will be an emotional battle against a scrappy group, and also be the first meeting since the 1970s. That series is split 2-2.
Men’s basketball: Maine (3-9) at Hawaii, 5 p.m.
Another Sunday game. We’ve lost count of how many of those there have been this season. Feels like a lot, doesn’t it? Anyway, this is the last game on the docket before the start of conference play. Could this game herald the return of Eran Ganot to full health and full action? He appeared close to a return before the Diamond Head Classic, but wasn’t quite there yet. Maine would seem to make for an ideal foe to ease himself back, as the Black Bears of the America East Conference have a KenPom rating of 344 out of 353 Division I teams.