Four decades and four distinct eras of University of Hawaii basketball are represented in the Final Four of our 100th Season Best-Team Bracket virtual tournament. Any fan or innocent passerby with a Twitter account can vote to help determine the greatest team in the first 100 years of the program.
Here are your semifinal matchups, with voting to come on Saturday. (The final will be contested next Monday — which would have been the date of the finale of March Madness before it was canceled because of the coronavirus.
The 2015-16 team — the top seed by virtue of its program-record 28 victories (with six losses) including UH’s only NCAA Tournament win — takes on fourth-seeded 1997-98 … which went 21-9 and actually did its most serious damage in late ’97, when it beat No. 2-ranked Kansas in the Rainbow Classic championship.
The ’16s routed the 1993-94 squad with 86.3 percent of the voting last week in the Elite Eight. Then ’98 took a nearly as lopsided victory with 71.2 percent against 1970-71.
In the other semifinal, the No. 3-seeded 2001-02 team (27-6) plays No. 2-rated 1971-72 (24-3). The ’02 Rainbows won a close one against the 1996-97 team, with 56.1 percent. And ’72 advanced via landslide, with 81.8 percent against the 1989-90 team.
Everything — as in the first round, of 16 teams — went according to seeding in the Elite Eight.
What we’re left with is Eran Ganot’s “IncrediBows,” Red Rocha’s “Fabulous Five” at its peak, and Riley Wallace’s most celebrated teams. Although just four years apart, Wallace’s two entries are vastly different. By 2002, he had fully embraced the international recruiting of assistant Scott Rigot, and rotation players came from Canada, Serbia, Lithuania, Israel, Nigeria, South Africa and California. In 1998, the ‘Bows were mostly all from the continental United States, including guard Anthony Carter. The notable exception was Kailua born-and-bred Alika Smith, who starred at Kalaheo.
We’ll have more as Saturday nears.