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UH Hoops Up For Big West Tourney

One of the ironies in modern-day college basketball is that postseason conference tournaments are much more dramatic and fun to watch in the lesser conferences than in the higher-rated ones. This stems from the current NCAA tournament format, which includes a field of 68 teams almost equally divided between conference champions and at-large invitees.

It’s not unusual for the power conferences to have six or seven teams invited. In the less highly rated conferences, only the conference tournament champion goes dancing. Consequently, the Big Ten or ACC tournaments are not nearly as much fun to watch as the Patriot League or Atlantic Sun tournaments, where the stakes are so much higher.

And like it or not, the Big West tournament is one of the latter; it is win or go home. Both University of Hawaii basketball teams are highly competitive in the league and have a real chance to win the tournament. Most observers believe that, on the men’s side, UC Irvine, UCSB, Long Beach State and Hawaii all have a real shot at winning three nights in a row.

The men play a conventional 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6 and 4 vs. 5 format, with a re-seed after the first round.

The women give a double bye to the first- and second-place teams, and a single bye to the third- and fourth-place teams, making it much tougher for a team seeded fifth or lower. The Rainbow Wahine also will be a contender for the tournament title, along with CS Northridge and Cal Poly. With only one bid coming to the league, every possession takes on a significance that is missing if North Carolina meets Syracuse in an ACC tournament at matchup, because both teams will receive an at-large bid should they lose.

The Rainbow Warriors have not been to the Big Dance since 2002, and they have never won a game in the NCAA tournament.

* Tiger Woods’ withdrawal after 12 holes of the final round at the Honda Classic because of back spasms caused very little comment last week, contrasting sharply with the previous year when Rory McIlroy withdrew citing a toothache. McIlroy was called immature, a bad loser and a poor sport. Were their situations all that different?

“Not at all,” says NBC golf analyst Mark Rolfing. “Tiger is essentially being given a hall pass for doing the same thing that Rory took so much heat for.”

Rolfing says nobody doubts that Tiger’s back is a problem, and he doesn’t see it going away.

“When a player has left knee problems, it often affects the right side of the lower back, and that’s exactly where Tiger’s back problem is located,” Rolfing says. “He is 38, and it would be very unusual for this type of problem to disappear entirely.”

Nobody seems to know if this will affect Tiger’s chase for his 15th major championship at the Masters in early April. A number of golf analysts seem to agree that if Tiger is going to get another major, it is likely to be at Augusta, where the course sets up so well for Woods and where he’s enjoyed so much success.