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An unforgettable march to March Madness

The University of Hawaii men's basketball team defeats Long Beach State and captures the championship of the 2016 Big West Tournament at the Honda Center, Anaheim, CA on March 12, 2016. Photo: Brandon Flores.

The Sweet 16 was not meant to be for the University of Hawai’i basketball team, but it is hardly enough to take away from a sweet ’16 that can be considered the greatest season in program history.

In the immediate aftermath of the Warriors’ 73-60 loss to Maryland in the second round of the NCAA Championship Tournament on Sunday, the Warriors expressed hurt and disappointment. It is that same never-say-die attitude and fiery competitiveness that led the team to a school-record 28 wins.

Five of those wins came in the month of March, and all away from home. Bringing a true feeling of March Madness to the program, the Warriors had three celebratory victories in three weeks in three different cities — regular-season championship in Davis, Calif., conference tournament championship in Anaheim, Calif., and a NCAA Tournament win in Spokane, Wash.

Some of the most memorable March moments:

• March 3 – Aaron Valdes intercepts a pass, then jumps and fires the ball downcourt while he is in mid-air to Roderick Bobbitt for a dunk that sealed a 67-65 win at UC Davis and clinched the Big West Conference regular-season championship. The Warriors trailed by as many as 13 points before rallying for the win.

• March 3 – Players dumping a jug of water on head coach Eran Ganot in a raucous celebratory locker room following the win at UC Davis. It was just the third regular-season title in 37 years of conference affiliation for the Warriors.

Smith3_Cal

• March 7 – Stefan Jankovic is named the Big West Conference Player of the Year, becoming just the second player in UH basketball history to earn such an award (Anthony Carter was the first in 1997).

• March 10 – Quincy Smith gets a two-handed blocked shot against the backboard to epitomize a brilliant defensive team effort in a 75-44 rout of Cal State Fullerton in the quarterfinals of the Big West Conference Tournament at Anaheim, Calif.

• March 11 – The big three of Jankovic, Bobbitt and Valdes combine for 64 points and 23 rebounds in an 88-76 victory over UC Santa Barbara in the semifinals of the Big West Tournament.

• March 12 – Smith is introduced for his usual spot in the starting lineup moments prior to the Big West Tournament championship game against Long Beach State. It comes just 24 hours after he limps off the court with an injured hip that kept him out of the second half of the semifinal win.

• March 12 – With Bobbitt in foul trouble and Smith playing hurt, reserve point guard Niko Filipovich makes an unexpected appearance in the championship game. He responds with four points in eight crucial minutes, including a layup just before the halftime horn.

• March 12 – Bobbitt sinks two free throws with 1.7 seconds remaining to secure a 64-60 win over Long Beach State, earning the Warriors an automatic berth to the NCAA Championship Tournament.

• March 12 – Dozens of Hawai’i fans storm the court at the Honda Center in Anaheim to celebrate the championship win with the team, creating a scene unlike any other in program history.

The University of Hawaii men's basketball team defeats Long Beach State and captures the championship of the 2016 Big West Tournament at the Honda Center, Anaheim, CA on March 12, 2016. Photo: Brandon Flores.

• March 13 – Hawai’i is announced as a No. 13 seed in the South Region of the NCAA Tournament, and slated to face No. 4 seed Cal in the first round at Spokane, Wash. It is just the fifth appearance in the Big Dance for the program.

• March 16-17 – Dozens of media representatives from around the country gather in Spokane to cover the eight teams assigned to play in Spokane. Among the media outlets to conduct interviews with the Hawai’i players and coaches are Sports Illustrated, ESPN, CBS Sports, the Washington Post and New York Times.

• March 18 – Hawai’i becomes a bracket buster for the first time in program history with a 77-66 upset of Cal. Prior to this year, No. 4 seeds had an all-time record of 99-25 against No. 13 seeds in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. It is also the first time since 2005 that a Big West Conference team won a first round game.

• March 18 – Smith and Bobbitt, Hawai’i’s starting backcourt who both happen to be from the Bay Area, lead the historic win with 19 and 17 points, respectively. Cal enters the game ranked No. 23 in the AP Top 25 Poll, and it is just the third time in UH basketball history that the Warriors earned a victory over a Top 25 team away from home.

Crowd2_Maryland

• March 20 – 1,000 ti leaves are delivered to the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena a few minutes before the start of the second round game with No. 5 seed Maryland. The Hawai’i cheering section mesmerizes the rest of the arena by waving the ti leaves and roaring the “Let’s go ‘Bows!” chant.

• March 20 – The historic Hawai’i run eventually runs out of gas in the second half, but the team refuses to quit and finishes on fumes. In a single play that epitomized the effort, Bobbitt out-hustles two Maryland big men for an offensive rebound, but falls to the court with the ball. While still down on the court, Bobbitt passes the ball to teammate Jankovic under the basket for a layup.

• March 20 – The Warriors leave the court dejected, but the crowd continues waving the ti leaves and the “Let’s go ‘Bows!” chant until the team is out of sight.

• March 20 – In a postgame interview session with the media, Ganot encapsulates the season by saying: “Through adversity in past years, it’s pretty dang impressive. They should be celebrated, and I know Hawai’i and — that’s what I told our guys, the state of Hawai’i is very proud of them. Because at the end of the day their job is to influence people in a positive way, and they certainly did that. Kids look up to them in the community over there as morale’s high because of them, because of the effort they put in, and the performance and the manner in which they performed.”

— — — — — — —

MAHALO FOR THE SUPPORT

Thanks primarily to support from corporate sponsors Pacific Risk Solutions and Ameriprise Financial – Valerie Schmidt, WarriorInsider.com was able to travel to Anaheim and Spokane to provide coverage of the historic wins in the Big West Conference Tournament and the NCAA Championship Tournament.

Both of those companies, and the entire Schmidt family, have been loyal sponsors of this site since 2011. Quite frankly, it would not be the same without their support.

Thank you also to the Takishita and Morinaga families for providing additional support on this recent trip.

Special recognition also goes to contributing photographer Brandon Flores and contributing writer Wes Nakama, and their respective families, for providing their own travel funds to assist with coverage at the NCAA Tournament.

27 Comments

  1. Know unfortunate. Wish one staff with 3 year guys culminated in history made! However incredible odds not on 3 different coaches. On the team. They came through. This ncaa protocol so drawn out. Do not blame a couple of guys leaving go pro or transfer if ban on for next season. Seems like last 3 springs recruiting hangup with same ncaa sanction drama. Good or not good. Recruits sign or not?pending ncaa. Think Samimis Reyes given last minute fall entry 2 years ago. Looks like it will go on couple of months final decision which is bad. Even if ban lifted. Losing Q. Rod and IF.a lot of good guards gone with experience. Hope best for Hawaii Basketball and mahalo WI!! Great year. The best so far!!

  2. Just Super Congrats to the team and this coaching staff.

    Go Bows !!

  3. What a great run and a much needed boost to the UH Athletic Dept. Hopefully Eran stays for many more years to come.

  4. Just so proud of the team! They deserved every minute of it! I hope the juniors stay on!

  5. Special shoutout to Warrior Insider for the awesome coverage it brings every year!! You guys are the best!!

  6. “the first time since 2005 that a Big West Conference team won a first round game.”

    This one goes out to the Big West, who kept sending referees with an agenda against UH.

    It was a great March, this team lived up to expectations and got the house rocking. Excitement building for UH. Next year Final 4!

    That is, if UH even is eligible for postseason. I wonder if Gib has had any contact with the team this season? imo if he hasn’t, then UH players should not be left to carry out this punishment which Gib is responsible for.

  7. Great Write-Up Summary —
    A Keeper To Document The Sweet ’16 March Madness

    Great Point! NOTED Because YOU Were There!
    Three Celebrations in Three Weeks in Three Cities

    TRUE ROAD WARRIORS!

    ———————-

    Looking Forward To:

    – UHMBB Banquet To Get To HONOR These Guys, THIS TEAM Together One Last Time This Season

    – Hearing HOW MANY Juniors Realize HOW Special THIS Place, THIS TEAM IS (!)
    AND Wanting To Enjoy THE BEST Senior Season Possible Right Here

    MOST Will Play Some PRO Ball Somewhere, BUT Senior Season Is Special
    Among THE BEST Times Of LIFE, Like This Year’s Seniors Experienced

    – Looking For OUR “Crack” Consultants AND AD/UH Mgt to FINALLY WIN ONE For The TEAM

    – RECRUITING: What This Staff CAN DO Despite The NCAA’s Biggest Barriers (AGAIN!)

    – UNC, and SFAustin, Tulsa, Utah AND UH — NCAA Teams in DHClassic

    – BWC Refs “Protecting” OUR Stars Giving The Premier BWC Team Some/More Key Calls [HA!]
    (NO More 24-2 Advantage Free Throws To The Beach — UNDEFEATED On Road)
    [NOTE: The BWC Makes More Money When “WE” WIN…]

    – A Bigger, Brighter Future; Getting USED TO Teams/Staff That Consistently “Over”-Achieve…

    GO ‘BOWS!
    JUST KEEP WINNIN’!

  8. Thank you Warrior Insider, Dayton, corporate sponsors, photographers, etc. for providing great coverage of the regular season and post season tournaments. Also enjoyed the coverage on the individual players and coaches. It was definitely a historic and memorable Season!

    Already looking forward to next season !!

  9. Will the best season ever be followed up by the worst season ever?

    Looking way ahead here let’s say all juniors transfer
    PG: Filipovich, Stepteau
    SG: Drammeh
    SF: Purchase
    PF:
    C:

  10. SG: Stepteau or Jakob, SF: Drammeh, PF: Zach, C: Purchase.
    Scout team: UH students.

  11. Also, Buggs and Owies.

  12. Just a look.
    City College of San Francisco Rams Men’s Basketball Team are the California Community College Athletic Association state title Champions.
    They have eight sophomores ready to leave the program after the school year.

    CCSF produce division 1 talent every year. Quincy Smith turned out to be ok

  13. send in the bloggers !!

  14. … too soon ?
    Go Bows !!

  15. Really awkward and pressure on juniors. Remember they are being contacted by other schools. USC? Gonzaga. UCLA? Butler? Ironic.if LBSU or CSUN. say AV and Janks stay as grad student seniors. And MT and Stef stay too WITH ban in place. Still can try to win DHC. First time beat N. Carolina. Win 30 plus games and develop for pros. Ranking in top12 nationally? Plus they like Hawaii. One year . a special one. Then that core group warriors through adversity go down as best loved ever? Lot to keep 4 guys here. However see what their families decide. Maybe just move on while on top!! Either way this group athletes recruited by whomever set bar. We all love the buzz! Your and only their choice. Going out as 2nd round ncaa and double BigWest champs. Hard to beat!!

  16. The seniors to be if they will graduate this semester has made positive choices available. Allowing them to go to another school even without the post season band. Freeing up scholarships for future recruits. Keeping the APR most likely in a positive situation. These players have done good no matter what they choose.

    The seniors to be if they don’t graduate this semester has also contributed if they kept up with good grades on their school work helping the APR. Transferring to another school allows Ganot with more scholarship options.

    All did their part on a great season, in rewarding themselves, the coaches and the rest of Hawaii, the post season experience which was none for many years. The team has given hope to the current and future players allowing the current coaching staff and players a chance to elevate the program even further.

    Worse case scenario if the band is enforced and all 4 seniors leave. Team success on the court may be stifled. However the recruiting of good freshman recruits that can be added to this years recruiting class can result in good players wanting to play and accept the 1 year band. Saddest part of this happening is losing these 4 great seniors to be.

  17. Outstanding Job from the best team in UH history !!!!! Way to go Bows

  18. Backbeat …. Matlin on Hoopstalk said UH men’s program gets no money for being in the NCAA first round. However, UH will get $130-140,000 per year for 6 years for winning the first round game. The rest of the money or 50 % goes to the Big West.
    ————————————————————————————————————–
    Celebration of UH Men’s and Wahine teams on Monday including at the legislature, details to be worked out.
    Eran has a Plan A and a Plan B for his recruiting due to the uncertain situation.

  19. islandman: Thanks for the update. I forgot to tune in. Did Matlin explain why UH didn’t automatically receive any monies for making the NCAA first round? It seemed unfair, but I thought I heard it’s just a Big West rule and that first-round appearance money goes to the conference’s coffers. It would have sucked had UH not beaten Cal and received nada for earning the NCAA berth.

  20. Buggs, 20 pts, 6 rbs, 3 assists in winning the CIF Div. II SoCal Regional Championship
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfCiyg47Xsw

  21. #23 in the darker uniforms.

  22. Buggs was playing with a knee not up to par, per another board.

  23. Even Injured, Buggs plays with good balance, under control…

    I “THINK” to Challenge The UNC’s, Oklahomas, Marylands we’ll “NEED” Quicker, More Physical, Taller Guards…
    We went through the Big Slow Guard Phases, And The Small-Guard Phases

    Spearman, Bobbitt, FLEMING-Sized Athletic Guards Seem ‘Necessary’
    Is that Drammeh? Better BULK Up…

    As Well AS A POWER Forward… Although I really Like The Athletic MThomas-Types…
    (Great MD Game, Mike!)
    AND The Length and Skillset of Jankovic

  24. Recruiting limbo. Tough pending ncaa response junk.! Maybe same as recent signees under radar guys. Sheriff add 10 to 15 pounds. Big West. Still need guards like Q. Rod. Fleming. Nevels.difference maker Jankovic. Depend what best for Fantastic 4 juniors. With 3 seniors gone that is a lot of veteran leadership. See how Eran can recruit through adversity and UH logistics geography. One or two good guards and 2 MT types. Warriors can win even if 2 senior to be leave. Go Bows!!

  25. I’m not worried. Coach G, per Matlin, said he has a plan A or plan B on the recruiting, depending on the juniors decision. But, I do know that we need a 3 point shooter. I totally believe in our coaching staff to get the right players for our program.

  26. ” The latest update I have on two of the Rainbow Warriors juniors, Aaron Valdes and Stefan Jankovic, is that they’re waiting until next week to decide their stay-or-go-pro fate.” (McInnis blog, 3-24-16)

  27. Jankovic and Valdes. They finish well graduate in May. Accomplished academic goals.Their basketball careers.you would think they are in a NO LOSE situation. Go pro good. Transfer to good school best offer for run at ncaa good too. Whatever decide we are happy for them. This season No one can take away. Wish them the best. Intersting. If choose pro they would secure agent then collegiate carrer done. Thanks to Stefan and Aaron.I do not blame accelerated decisions. NCAA response or not. Be happy!!

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