We expected that No. 13 Hawaii would upset fourth-seeded California, and that was even before Jabari Bird and Tyrone Wallace missed the game with an illness and a hand injury, respectively. And while the game was ugly — there were 49 fouls called — the Rainbow Warriors led much of the game to pull off the upset, 77-66.
Hawaii will face fourth-seeded Maryland, which barely survived its own upset bid from South Dakota State, and could struggle against the Big West school, in second-round action on Sunday. The Rainbow Warriors apply the sort of pressure the Terps aren’t accustomed to, building a wall on the defensive glass and using the quick hands of Roderick Bobbitt and Quincy Smith to force careless ballhandlers into giveaways.
Coupled with the Rainbow Warriors’ frantic pace — 71.3 possessions per game — and the team aims to create as much defensive confusion as possible. Cal only scored .88 PPP (typically 1.10 PPP) and was often unhinged in the halfcourt amid the swarming Hawaii defenders.
This could be a significant issue for the Terps, who aren’t known for their handles. Even Melo Trimble, whose usage rate is second on the squad, turns the ball over nearly 20 percent of his touches, and the Terps as a whole are sloppy — only two other high-major squads have a worse offensive turnover percentage than the Terps.
Cal tried to offset Hawaii’s disruptive play by dumping the ball to Ivan Rabb. It worked for a time, and Mark Turgeon might try to replicate that strategy with Diamond Stone and Robert Carter. Turgeon has been using Jake Layman more and more at the four, going small as a way to boost the offense and versatility of the lineup — per HoopLens, the efficiency margin of a lineup with Layman and one big is plus-0.23. That grouping could be Maryland’s salve: four ballhandlers surrounding one Terp on the block.
What could carry over from the Hawaii-Cal game, though, are the fouls. The Rainbow Warriors hack — a lot. Their defensive free throw rate is 39.5 percent, which ranks among the worst in DI, and while Trimble hasn’t been as skilled at drawing a whistle, he did get to the line for nine free throw attempts versus South Dakota State (the most he has attempted since late February).
Hawaii’s game is tailor-made to beat a team like Maryland. Sure, the Terps may shoot a ton from the stripe, and more minutes for Layman allow another ballhandler to break the pressure. But Hawaii’s defensive rebounding, ball swiping, and defensive minded approach are the perfect exploits to Maryland’s deficiencies.