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A look ahead at the Diamond Head

The argument could be made that the 2016 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic is a winnable tournament for all eight teams, including the University of Hawai’i.

For the first time in the eight-year history of the tournament, there are no Top 25 ranked teams in the field. Every team has at least two losses.

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Hawai’i (4-5) will host Illinois State (6-3) in the late game (8:30 p.m.) of the opening night on December 22. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.

Four games per day are scheduled for December 22, 23 and 25 at the Stan Sheriff Center, and all 12 games in the tournament will be broadcast on an ESPN network (ESPN2, ESPNU or ESPN3).

Tickets are available online at www.hawaiiathletics.com

Here is a quick look at each of the eight teams:

HAWAI’I
Record: 4-5
Conference: Big West
Head Coach: Eran Ganot (32-11, 2nd season at UH)

Players to watch: Noah Allen (6-7, Sr., F) is averaging 14.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. He has scored double-figure points in seven of nine games this season … Gibson Johnson (6-8, Jr., F) is averaging 11.9 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, and has a .575 field goal percentage … Sheriff Drammeh (6-3, So, G) is averaging 10.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game … Jack Purchase (6-8, So., F) is averaging 9.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, and leads the team with 18 3-pointers.

Team notes: The Rainbow Warriors have played all of their games this season on the island of Oahu, including a 4-3 record in the Stan Sheriff Center. Hawai’i has an all-time record of 12-9 in the Diamond Head Classic, including third-place finishes in each of the last two seasons. The Warriors had two weeks to rest and prepare for this tournament; they last played on December 7 – a 75-62 loss to Princeton in the Pearl Harbor Classic at Bloch Arena.

ILLINOIS STATE
Record:
6-3
Conference: Missouri Valley
Head Coach: Dan Muller (82-61, 5th season at ISU)

Players to watch: Paris Lee (6-0, Sr., G) is averaging 15.7 points, 6.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game. He also leads the team with 26 3-pointers and a .565 percentage from 3-point range. He has already been named MVC Player of the Week twice this season … Deontae Hawkins (6-8, Sr., F) is averaging 15.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game … MiKyle McIntosh (6-7, Jr., F) is averaging 13.4 points and 6.7 rebounds per game … Phil Fayne (6-9, So., F) is averaging 10.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, and leads the team with a .600 field goal percentage.

Team notes: The Redbirds return four starters from last season’s team that finished 18-14. Illinois State was picked to finish second in the MVC Preseason Poll (behind only Wichita State). The Redbirds are 6-0 at home, but 0-3 on the road this season. The losses have been at Murray State (70-73), at TCU (71-80) and at Tulsa (68-70). Among ISU’s notable wins this season are Fort Wayne (75-57), New Mexico (79-74) and Saint Joseph’s (81-72). The Redbirds are averaging 9.0 steals per game.

SAN DIEGO STATE
Record:
5-4
Conference: Mountain West
Head Coach: Steve Fisher (371-199, 18th season at SDSU; 555-281 overall)

Players to watch: Jeremy Hemsley (6-3, So., G) is averaging 17.1 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, and leads the team with 21 3-pointers and a .600 percentage from 3-point range. He was the Mountain West Freshman of the Year last season … Trey Kell (6-4, Jr., G) is averaging 14.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game … Zylan Cheatham (6-9, So., F) is averaging 10.4 points and 6.0 rebounds per game.

Team notes: The Aztecs have won at least 20 games in each of the last 11 seasons. San Diego State placed second in the 2012 Diamond Head Classic. The Aztecs are shooting just 41.8 percent from the field this season, but are holding opponents to 39.0 percent. SDSU led the nation last season in field goal percentage defense, limiting opponents to 37.3 percent. The Aztecs were picked to finish first in the Mountain West Conference Preseason Poll.

SAN FRANCISCO
Record:
8-2
Conference: West Coast
Head Coach: Kyle Smith (8-2, 1st season at USF; 109-84 overall)

Players to watch: Ronnie Boyce (6-3, Sr., G) is averaging 17.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game, and leads the team with 21 3-pointers … Chase Foster (6-5, Jr., F) is averaging 13.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per game … Charles Minlend (6-4, Fr., G) is averaging 10.8 points per game as the team’s top reserve guard … Nate Renfro (6-7, So., F) is averaging 6.8 points per game and leads the team with 6.5 rebounds per game.

Team notes: The Dons are off to their best start since the 1999-2000 season. They are shooting 50.2 percent from the field as a team, including an impressive 41.8 percent from 3-point range. They made 15 3-pointers in a win over Abilene Christian earlier this week. USF’s two losses this season were at Eastern Washington (90-96) and vs. Portland State (78-82). The Dons were picked to finish ninth (out of 10 teams) in the WCC Preseason Poll.

SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI
Record:
3-6
Conference: Conference USA
Head Coach: Doc Sadler (20-44, 3rd season at SM; 289-192 overall)

Players to watch: Quinton Campbell (6-7, Sr., F) is averaging 10.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game … Tim Rowe (6-11, So., F) is averaging 10.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, and leads the team with a .521 field goal percentage … Eddie Davis III (6-7, So., F) is averaging 9.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game … Kevin Holland (6-1, So., G) is averaging 6.2 points and 3.1 assists per game. He leads the team with 12 3-pointers and has a .522 percentage from 3-point range.

Team notes: The Golden Eagles are 0-4 away from home this season, including an 86-44 loss at Mississippi State earlier this week. They are shooting just 40.1 percent from the field as a team, including just 29.5 percent from 3-point range. The Golden Eagles’ three victories this season are against a NAIA team (Tougaloo), a NCAA-II team (Union) and a winless low-major NCAA-I team (Alabama A&M).

STEPHEN F. AUSTIN
Record:
4-5
Conference: Southland
Head Coach: Kyle Keller (4-5, 1st season at SFA)

Players to watch: Ivan Canete (6-4, Jr., G) is averaging 13.8 points and 2.4 rebounds per game, and leads the team with 17 3-pointers and a .459 percentage from 3-point range … TJ Holyfield (6-8, So., F) is averaging 12.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game … Leon Gilmore III (6-7, Jr., F) is averaging 10.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.

Team notes: The Lumberjacks finished 28-6 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season, but only one starter returns. Also, then-head coach Brad Underwood accepted a job at Oklahoma State after last season. SFA opened this season with an 87-64 loss at Kentucky. The Lumberjacks are 0-4 away from home this season.

TULSA
Record:
5-4
Conference: American Athletic
Head Coach: Frank Haith (46-26, 3rd season at Tulsa; 234-155 overall)

Players to watch: Jaleel Wheeler (6-4, Jr., G) is averaging 13.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game … Junior Etou (6-7, Jr., F) is averaging 11.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, and has a .557 field goal percentage … Sterling Taplan (6-1, So., G) is averaging 8.2 points and 3.4 assists per game.

Team notes: The Golden Hurricane returns just three players with game experience from last season’s team that finished 20-12 and played in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Tulsa has held eight consecutive opponents below 50 percent for field goal shooting, including Wichita State and Oklahoma State. Tulsa is making its first appearance in the Stan Sheriff Center since 2005, when it was in the Western Athletic Conference with Hawai’i.

UTAH
Record:
7-2
Conference: Pac-12
Head Coach: Larry Krystkowiak (101-75, 6th season at Utah; 143-95 overall)

Players to watch: Kyle Kuzma (6-9, Jr., F) is averaging 16.0 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. He has six double-doubles this seson, including 23 points and 19 rebounds in a win over Northwest Nazarene … Lorenzo Bonam (6-4, Sr., G) is averaging 14.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game, and leads the team with a .602 field goal percentage … JoJo Zamora (6-2, Jr., G) is averaging 11.3 points per game and leads the team with 13 3-pointers … Sedrick Barefield (6-2, So., G) recently became eligible, and had 18 points and four assists in his season debut against Prairie View A&M last week.

Team notes: The Runnin’ Utes’ only losses this season were against then-No. 18 Butler (59-68) and then No. 13 Xavier (69-77). Utah ranks fourth in the nation in rebounding with 46.0 per game. The Utes have an average rebounding margin of +14.0 per game. Utah finished in eighth place in the 2010 Diamond Head Classic. The Utes finished 27-9 last season, and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

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Tournament Schedule
December 22

11:30 a.m. – Tulsa vs. Stephen F. Austin
2:00 p.m. – San Diego State vs. Southern Miss
6:00 p.m. – San Francisco vs. Utah
8:30 p.m. – Hawai’i vs. Illinois State

December 23
11:30 a.m. – Tulsa/SFA winner vs. San Diego State/Southerm Miss winner
1:30 p.m. – Tulsa/SFA loser vs. San Diego State/Southern Miss loser
5:00 p.m. – USF/Utah winner vs. Hawai’i/Illinois State winner
7:30 p.m. – USF/Utah loser vs. Hawai’i/Illinois State loser

December 25
7:30 a.m. – 7th place game
9:30 a.m. – 5th place game
1:00 p.m. – 3rd place game
3:00 p.m. – Championship game

3 Comments

  1. Findlay 87 – Kahuku 43 and it wasn’t that close.

  2. Looks like Utah is the team to beat this year but San Diego State got a easy draw. UH used to be the ones with the easy draw before but now they have to win a tough one on the first day. Lets go Bows!

  3. The video and write-ups got me more interested in the tournament.

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