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Hawaii Rainbow Warriors vs. California Golden Bears: NCAA Tournament First Round Preview and Prediction

Author:
Tyrone Wallace

Tyrone Wallace

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Recent developments within the California program have added even more intrigue and uncertainty in regards to Golden Bears’ first round NCAA Tournament game on Friday against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. Earlier this week it was revealed that Cal assistant coach Yann Hufnagel was fired for alleged sexual harassment of a female media member. Now, reports have been trickling in that head coach Cuonzo Martin was contacted via email by the accuser, making Martin aware of the unwanted sexual advances by Hufnagel approximately six weeks before an official university investigation was set in motion last spring. Martin is now the subject of another university investigation into his role of reporting the allegations. Hufnagel is at-least the fourth UC-Berkley employee accused of sexual assault in the last calendar year.

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In addition to the news of Hufnagel and possibly of Martin, Cal’s leading scorer and starting point guard Tyrone Wallace suffered a fractured right (non-shooting) hand in practice on Wednesday. The school announced on Friday that because of the injury, which initially occurred back in January and cost him five games, Wallace will miss the entire NCAA Tournament, further adding to the uncertainty swirling around the Golden Bears.

No. 13 Hawaii Warriors (27-5) vs. No. 4 Cal Bears (23-10)

When: 2 p.m. ET (Friday)

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Where: Spokane Arena (Spokane)

TV: TBS

Line: Cal -5.5

Keys for Hawaii

The Warriors come into the Big Dance as one of the most overlooked teams in the Tournament. But the Warriors won the Big West regular season and tournament titles and could be a force to be reckoned with going forward, especially defensively. Hawaii is coached by former St. Mary’s assistant Eran Ganot, who at just 34 years old and in his first year in charge will be a popular name on the coaching hot stove for the next few years. Finding ways to score against a top-tier Bears defense is going to be of upmost importance, especially for a Warriors team that struggles to score from behind the arc.

Keys for Cal

With all that has happened to the Bears in the past few days, it would be easy to understand if players’ heads weren’t completely steady on the task at hand. With Wallace now out, it will be up to someone else to take care of the ball-handling and distribution duties against a feisty Hawaii defense. Even without Wallace’s scoring output, the Bears should be okay offensively with top freshmen Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown teaming with juniors Jordan Matthews and Jabari Bird — all of whom average double digits in points – to handle the load.

Final Analysis

Even with all the distractions off the court and the loss of Wallace, California will still have its hands full against a tough Hawaii defense. Someone else will have to handle the point guard duties and others will have to replace Wallace's scoring output. Also, the Bears will have to find a way to slow down the Warriors’ best player in the 6-foot-11 Stefan Jankovic. Put it all together and it looks like an upset could be in play.

Prediction: Hawaii 68-65