Hawaii men’s basketball: As expected, ’16 reigns as the sweetest of Hawaii’s Sweet 16

Sai Tummala, Isaac Fleming, Aaron Valdes and Roderick Bobbitt walked together to the free throw line in the final minutes against Northern Arizona in the Diamond Head Classic on Dec. 22, 2015. / Star-Advertiser file photo by Krystle Marcellus

When all the Twitter votes were counted, the 2015-16 team was deemed the best of all in the 100 years of University of Hawaii men’s basketball. This edition could already be described as the most accomplished, with the records for most wins and the only UH victory in NCAA Tournament play, as Hawaii finally won on its fifth and most recent dance invitation.

This came 14 years after UH’s last previous appearance. That was by the 2001-02 team, which was the ’16s’ opponent in our fantasy final.

The coaches were two very different personalities: Current head man Eran Ganot, then a taciturn rookie head coach in 2016, and still-fiery veteran Riley Wallace in 2002, who was taking a UH team to the NCAAs for the third time.

One thing these teams had in common were that both starred a dynamic player originally from Serbia; Stefan Jankovic for the ’16s, and Predrag Savovic for the ’02s.

This exercise reminded me how good an offensive player Jankovic was, with an ability to score from anywhere on the court. Savo? He’s one of those people that no one ever says, “Hmm, I think I might’ve met that guy.” If you met him, you remember. If you saw him play ball you’d never forget, either. One of the most charismatic UH athletes ever, he performed with talent, personality and — as opponents often noted — a bag of tricks you don’t expect from a college player.

The championship matchup of the 100th season bracket has been captured by the top seed, 2015-16. / Graphic by Curtis Murayama


Even though it was just four years ago, 2016 seems like a very long time in the past. A lot certainly has happened since then.

Never mind four years; the world is a vastly different place than it was even four weeks ago, and is why you’re reading this and not a recap of the NCAA championship tournament final that was canceled — like almost everything else in sports — due to coronavirus concerns.

The world had also changed radically in March of 2002 from the year before. Most of the key players who represented UH at the NCAAs had done so the previous year, with the events of Sept. 11, 2001 almost exactly in the middle.


It’s never too early for tournament brackets, right?

The guy who does them for ESPN, Joe Lunardi, already has his first predicted field for the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

Gonzaga, Villanova, Creighton and Kentucky are his top seeds. In the accompanying story, he admits this is pretty much of a crapshoot, even though he does use an “algorithm.”

And here’s what you really want to know about that if you’re a regular visitor to Hawaii Warrior World:

No, the University of Hawaii team does not appear in the predicted field. UC Irvine has the one spot reserved for the Big West, slotted as No. 14 seed in the Midwest Regional, with No. 3 Wisconsin as its first (and very likely, only) opponent.

Oh, well.

If you’re a UH fan, mo’ betta you stay tuned here — at least for the foreseeable future. The real life ‘Bows are going to have to win a few games before they climb into the national consciousness. And who knows when and if there are going to be any games?

Here, at Hawaii Warrior World, Brian McInnis and Stephen Tsai will keep you up-to-date with all of the off-the-court news … which is where all of the basketball news is now. Same for the other UH sports.

As for brackets, we hope you enjoyed our fantasy tournament; and we can truly say UH was a stone-cold lock to win it all from the very beginning.

And if there are no games, it doesn’t mean we can’t be creative and make up our own. This was an idea we were working on even before anything was canceled. We’ve got more rainy-day, week, or month ideas, and we’ll get to work on which is the best to serve up next.


  1. SweatyMurphy April 10, 2020 12:42 pm

    Thanks Gib Arnold, Brandyn Akana, and Benjy Taylor for recruiting the “best UH team ever”.

  2. entrkn April 14, 2020 12:10 pm

    I agree with Sweaty Murphy. UH flushed the best coaching staff Hawaii has ever had. We would be in the Big Dance many or most years if we got that crew back. Food for thought…

Comments are closed.