Hawaii men’s basketball: 100th Season Best-Team Bracket, Elite Eight, Day 1

Roderick Bobbitt stole the ball from UC Davis' Darius Graham on Jan. 23, 2016 at the Stan Sheriff Center. Bobbitt set the all-time UH steals mark at 168. / Star-Advertiser file photo by Jamm Aquino

Now it gets interesting.

Welcome to the Elite Eight of the Hawaii basketball 100th Season Best-Team Bracket, where all eight top seeds survived their opening-round matchup. Some really good squads are about to go home disappointed.

The “Elite Eight” of the tournament is set after Twitter voting favored all eight of the highest seeds last week.

We start with the overall seed, the history-making “Incredibows” of 2015-16, against a fellow NCAA Tournament team, the hot-shooting and battle-tested Trevor Ruffin-led ‘Bows of 1993-94.

Voting begins at 9 a.m. (HST) on Twitter. You can vote below, or directly on the Warrior World Twitter page.

On to the day’s matchup:

>> No. 1 2015-16 (28-6, NCAA second round)

Hawaii forward Michael Thomas, left, Stefan Jankovic, center, and Stefan Jovanovic (15) celebrated the Big West title-clinching 67-65 win at UC Davis on March 3, 2016. / Star-Advertiser file photo by Tony Avelar

Coach Eran Ganot’s first team achieved what no UH basketball squad had previously or has since: It won a game in the NCAA Tournament, Hawaii’s first in five tries. The 13-seeded Rainbow Warriors — who’d dealt with adversity all season in being tagged with future NCAA sanctions (mostly later rescinded) from Gib Arnold’s past coaching regime — turned the tables and beat reeling California, a No. 4 seed, 77-66. Against the Bears from Berkeley, UH’s East Bay backcourt mates, Quincy Smith and Roderick Bobbitt, stood out. Smith led UH with 19 points and career steals leader Bobbitt scored 17 with seven rebounds. UH held its own against No. 5 Maryland in the round of 32 in Spokane, Wash., before falling 73-60 two days later. … Front-courters Stefan Jankovic and Aaron Valdes were dynamic, versatile and explosive, and Jankovic, a Missouri transfer, earned Big West Player of the Year honors. Mike Thomas, Stefan Jovanovic, Sai Tummala and Sheriff Drammeh were among the team’s reliable role players. Mercurial Isaac Fleming was a sparkplug before leaving the team late in the season. And the “Hawaii 5-0” bench mob kept things lively all year as this group went on to win its first (and only to date) Big West regular-season and tournament championships, and set the program single-season wins record. Ganot became the first UH coach not named Riley Wallace to pick up a conference coach of the year award. The ‘Bows had winning streaks of four, four, eight, six, two, and four games in not losing back-to-back contests all season. Highlights, besides the postseason run, included a memorable Diamond Head Classic — UH beat a good Northern Iowa team, nearly knocked off No. 3 Oklahoma (later a Final Four team), and topped Bruce Pearl’s Auburn team in the third-place game. The Rainbows swept Big West nemesis UC Irvine in the regular season and came within some tough calls at Long Beach State of sweeping their conference road schedule for the first time in program history. UH shared the regular-season title with the Anteaters.
Roster: Bobbitt, Zach Buscher, Jakob Cornelissen, Drammeh, Dyrbe Enos, Niko Filipovich, Fleming, Jankovic, Jovanovic, Smith, Brocke Stepteau, Thomas, Tummala, Valdes.

VS.

>> No. 8 1993-94 (18-15, NCAA first round)

Hawaii broke through a 22-year NCAA Tournament drought by upsetting BYU in Salt Lake City on March 12, 1994. / Star-Advertiser file

Trevor Ruffin drained one of his school-record 10 3-pointers against Louisville on Dec. 20, 1993. / Star-Advertiser file photo

Hawaii’s final team to play in the Blaisdell Arena made it a season to remember after an 0-4 start that included getting blitzed 100-47 by Portland in the Great Alaska Shootout in the season opener. Things got better as they went, as UH shook off a 15-point loss at No. 4 North Carolina and turned the corner in the Rainbow Classic. The ‘Bows gave No. 11 Louisville all they could handle, taking the Cardinals to the wire in an 85-79 loss that included gunner Trevor Ruffin sinking a program-record 10 3-pointers, a mark that still stands. UH rode that to a 7-1 start in WAC play, en route to a 11-7 mark in the league, its second-best to date. The ‘Bows finally got their second NCAA Tournament bid 22 years after the first — and for the first time as a conference member — thanks in large part to the hot-hand of sharp-shooter Ruffin. The junior college transfer from Buffalo, N.Y., bombed away for 20.8 points per game, and got inside help from 7-foot-2 Tony Maroney (13.1 ppg, 9.8 rpg, UH single-season blocks record of 103). Future NBA assistant coach Phil Handy was the glue player, a 6-5 forward who pitched in 11.2 and 4.5. … Guard Jarinn Akana, who also ended up on NBA coaching staffs before becoming a player agent, could heat up from long range at times, too, while Kalia McGee (4.1 assists) set the table. … These ‘Bows lost five of their last eight WAC regular-season games (and one of the wins was a 95-94 triple-overtime win at Wyoming), but got hot in the tourney and beat BYU 73-66 in the final in Salt Lake City to earn their dance ticket — a first-round date Syracuse. He made seven of 13 from beyond the arc on his way to 24 points, Maroney added 19 and Akana had 18 off the bench. But it wasn’t enough to squeeze the Orange, who won 92-78. This UH team got as far as it did despite being outscored (74.5-72.0) over the course of its 33 games — a deceptive stat, however, as UH lost its three Alaska Shootout games by an average margin of 42 points. It was all up from there. The quick-triggered Ruffin, who shattered all manner of UH 3-point records to that point, went undrafted to the NBA but would go on to play with the Phoenix Suns, one of the few UH players ever to have some staying power in the Association.
Roster: Akana, Lonnie Benjamin, Walter Bonner, Handy, Maroney, McGee, John Molle Jr., Aahmad Ricketts, Ruffin, John Spanogle.

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Brian McInnis and Dave Reardon assembled the season summaries. Curtis Murayama designed the 100th season bracket.

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