Top 10 Of Hawaii March Madness

Anthony Carter soars. Photo courtesy UH Athletics

March Madness means so many things to so many people – the crazy upsets, the fantastic finishes, the Cinderella stories and much more. To me, it also brings back memories. Here’s a Top 10 list featuring recollections of March Madness, Hawaiian-style:

1) The Fab Five take New York (1971). Back when the NIT really meant something and was actually played in the Big Apple, Hawaii’s Fabulous Five earned UH’s first-ever trip to the post-season. And what a run they made – to the quarterfinals, charming New York City fans all the way. (The next year, the Fab 5 lost in the first round of the NCAA.)

2) Amazing A.C. and Alika (1997 and 1998). The Dynamic Duo of Anthony Carter and Alika Smith, who Riley Wallace dubbed Batman and Robin, led the Rainbows to NIT home victories at Stan Sheriff Center over Oregon (1997), and then Arizona State and Gonzaga (1998), before falling to Fresno State by a single basket in the ’98 quarterfinals. I still think A.C. was fouled on the final shot.

3) Bob Nash waves the towel (1990). Blaisdell Arena was frenetic with excitement as the ‘Bows beat Stanford and Long Beach State in the first two rounds of the NIT. Nash, the former Fab 5 All-American and longtime assistant coach, whipped the crowd into a frenzy by picking up a bench towel and twirling it above his head in whirlybird fashion.

4) Jet Chang flies high in Springfield (2011). A year ago, BYU-Hawaii’s Jet Chang set a Hawaii post-season record with 46 points in the NCAA II Elite Eight semifinals, as the Seasiders upset No. 1-ranked and previously undefeated West Liberty. BYU-Hawaii went on to finish as national runner-up and Jet was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

5) Hawaii Pacific wins the NAIA (1993). Legendary local head coach Tony Sellitto brought together players from newly merged Hawaii Pacific College and Hawaii Loa College and took them all the way to the NAIA title. The SeaWarriors improbable run remains the only national basketball championship ever won by a local university.

6) Trevor Ruffin gets respect from Syracuse (1994). After a scintillating run to the WAC Championship in Salt Lake City, the ‘Bows stayed on the Mainland to take on Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA tournament just up the road in Logan, Utah. Ruffin’s incredible shooting display, including three-pointers from well beyond the arc, drew “we’re not worthy” praise from the Orangemen.

7) Alex English and Predrag Savovic earn back-to-back NCAA trips (2001, 2002). Arguably the ‘Bows most complete teams, Hawaii won the WAC Tournament in 2001 (including an upset of host and top-seeded Tulsa), and won the WAC regular season and tournament titles in 2002, before exiting in the first round of the NCAA tournament each year, against Syracuse and Xavier.

8) First road upset of nationally ranked team (2004). Hawaii knocks off No. 25 Utah State in the first round of the NIT, then beats Nebraska before falling to Michigan in the quarter-finals.

9) Hawaii whips Vegas (2003). The Bows upset UNLV before losing to Minnesota in the next round.

10) Riley gets them there (1989). In one of the best turnaround stories of the year (up 15 victories over the year prior), Wallace’s 1988-89 team made it to the first round of the NIT, setting the stage for many more great memories to come.