The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors caught No. 4 California at the perfect time on Friday. Cal’s leading scorer Tyrone Wallace broke his shooting hand during practice on Wednesday and was unable to go, but at least the Golden Bears could prepare for that. Another double-digit scorer, junior guard Jabari Bird, was suffering from back spasms and was ruled out of the contest right before tip-off. This isn’t to say that Hawaii simply got lucky; this is a talented team that is definitely capable of rattling off a few more wins in March. Next up for Hawaii is No. 5 Maryland, which built a big lead and then held off a pesky South Dakota State team on Friday.
No. 13 Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (28-5) vs. No. 5 Maryland Terrapins (26-8)
When: 7:10 p.m. ET (Sunday)
Where: Spokane Arena (Spokane, WA)
Line: Maryland -6.5
Keys for Hawaii
New head coach Eran Ganot’s team was able to lock up Hawaii’s first-ever NCAA Tournament win in the Rainbow Warriors’ first appearance since 2002. This team is truly playing with nothing to lose, as a bevy of NCAA violations under former head coach Gib Arnold has made them ineligible for any postseason next year. The Rainbow Warriors must feed junior center Stefan Jankovic the ball in the low post and run their offense from the inside out in order to take down Maryland.
Keys for Maryland
The Terrapins held a 17-point lead with 11 minutes to go in the second half against South Dakota State and still had to eek out a win in the closing minutes. Melo Trimble played sloppy on both sides of the ball at times, including taking his fifth foul on a 3-point shot with a minute left in the game. This team always seems to panic under pressure, and a very solid Hawaii team will give the Terps serious trouble if they don’t play smart basketball. The key for Mark Turgeon’s team is its shooters. If Trimble, Rasheed Sulaimon and Jake Layman can knock down a few early threes it will enable the Terrapins to space the floor on offense.
There is very serious upset potential here, and the Rainbow Warriors could be the first No. 13 seed to topple a No. 5 seed in the round of 32 in a decade. Maryland cannot afford to be careless with the basketball, as Hawaii is the type of team that capitalizes on almost every mistake its opponent makes.
Prediction: Hawaii 76, Maryland 70
(Stefan Jankovic photo courtesy of Getty Images)