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10th annual Diamond Head Classic starts this Saturday

Perhaps fitting for a Christmas time event, there is an air of mysterious excitement surrounding the 2018 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.

This year’s three-day, eight-team tournament is set for December 22, 23 and 25 at the Stan Sheriff Center. Every game will be televised on one of the ESPN network of stations (ESPN2,ESPNU or ESPN3).

None of the eight teams are currently ranked in the Top 25 national polls. Here are the current ratings of the teams, according to the most recent NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET):

41 – TCU
46 – Colorado
95 – Rhode Island
127 – Indiana State
146 – Hawai’i
154 – UNLV
228 – Bucknell
281 – Charlotte

TCU appears to be the top seed, though not necessarily an overwhelming favorite. TCU was ranked as high as No. 18 in the opening weeks of the season, but a home loss to Lipscomb dropped the Horned Frogs out of the Top 25. TCU, which is now 8-1, is in the “others receiving votes” category of the national polls this week.

There is also a Hawai’i tie to the TCU storyline. Head coach Jamie Dixon was an assistant coach at UH under Riley Wallace in the 1990s. He left UH in 1998, and rose to national prominence at Pittsburgh; he is now in his third season at TCU, which is his alma mater.

This is Dixon’s first coaching appearance at the Sheriff Center since he left UH in 1998. His Pittsburgh team lost to UH in 2014, but that game was played on Maui.

Colorado is also 8-1, with its only loss on the road at San Diego on November 20. The Buffaloes will bring a six-game winning streak to Hawai’i.

Rhode Island reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season, and is off to a 5-3 start this season with a new head coach (David Cox).

Bucknell played in both the 2017 and 2018 NCAA Tournaments. The Bison are 4-5 so far this season, and one of the losses was by just two points (73-71) at then No. 15 Ohio State.

The host Hawai’i team is 5-4, and has already played in two previous three-day tournaments this season: the Outrigger Resorts Rainbow Classic (November 9-11 at the Sheriff Center) and the Wooden Legacy (November 22, 23 and 25 in Anaheim, Calif.). The Rainbow Warriors went a combined 3-3 in those two tournaments.

The Warriors have an all-time record of 14-13 in the Diamond Head Classic, and have yet to reach the championship game of the tournament, which started in 2009.

Hawai’i will face UNLV on the opening day. The Runnin’ Rebels are 5-4 and feature a unique roster that includes players from seven countries (United States, Australia, Cameroon, Congo, Mali, Senegal and Serbia) and six different states (California, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey and Ohio).

There will also be a handful of individual star players to watch in the tournament. Among them:

• TCU point guard Alex Robinson ranks second in NCAA Division I in assists at 8.6 per game, and is also scoring 13.9 points per game. He is one of 20 players on the Bob Cousy Award watch list for the top point guard in the nation.

• Indiana State guard Jordan Barnes ranks among the national leaders in several offensive categories, including scoring (21.0 per game), 3-point shooting percentage (.500, 27 for 54) and free throw percentage (.900, 45 for 50).

• Colorado sophomore guard McKinley Wright IV is a triple-double threat, averaging 14.8 points 6.0 assists, and 5.7 rebounds per game. He was a Pac-12 Conference All-Freshman Team selection last season.

• Rhode Island’s 6-foot-8 junior forward Cyril Langevine is averaging 15.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. He has six double-doubles in the Rams’ eight games this season.

• Charlotte senior guard Jon Davis ranks seventh in NCAA Division I in minutes played at 37.4 per game. He is averaging 20.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.

Here is a capsule look at the eight teams, in alphabetical order …

Bucknell (4-5)
Conference: Patriot League
Head coach: Nathan Davis, 4th season
Top players: Nate Sestina (6-9, Sr., C) 14.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg … Kimbal Mackenzie (6-2, Sr., G) 15.6 ppg, 3.8 apg, 2.8 rpg … Jimmy Sotos (6-3, So., G) 9.6 ppg, 5.10apg, 4.4 rpg … Bruce Moore (6-8, Jr., F) 9.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg.
Other notes: Finished 25-10 last season and lost in first round of NCAA Tournament. Also lost in NCAA first round in 2017. Bucknell University is located in Lewisburg, Pa.
Diamond Head Classic experience: First appearance
Famous basketball alumni: Jay Wright

Charlotte (3-5)
Conference:
Conference USA
Head coach: Ron Sanchez, 1st season
Top players: Jon Davis (6-3, Sr., G) 20.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 4.3 apg, 37.8 minutes per game … Malik Martin (6-6, Fr., G) 9.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 36.3 minutes per game … Milos Suica (6-9, So, F) 7.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg
Other notes: Finished 10-22 last season. Had a home game against South Florida cancelled on December 9 due to a winter storm.
Diamond Head Classic experience: First appearance
Famous basketball alumni: Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell

Colorado (8-1)
Conference:
Pac-12
Head coach: Tad Boyle, 9th season
Top players: McKinley Wright IV (6-0, So., G), 14.8 ppg, 6.0 apg, 5.7 apg … Tyler Bey (6-7, So., F) 12.6 ppg, 8.9 rpg … Lucas Siewert (6-10, Jr., F) 12.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg, .600 FG pct. … Evan Battey (6-8, Fr., F) 9.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg
Other notes: Averaging 84.3 points per game. Roster of 17 players includes five freshmen and 8 sophomores. Finished 17-15 last season.
Diamond Head Classic experience: 4th place in 2014
Famous basketball alumni: Chauncey Billups

Hawai’i (5-4)
Conference:
Big West
Head Coach: Eran Ganot, 4th season
Top players: Eddie Stansberry (6-3, Jr., G) 11.8 ppg, 30 3-pointers, .380 3-point pct. … Jack Purchase (6-9, Sr., F) 11.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 25 3-pointers … Zigmars Raimo (6-8, Jr., F) 10.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, .629 FG pct. … Brocke Stepteau (5-9, Sr., G) 11.1 ppg, 3.1 apg.
Other notes: Seven different players have led the team in scoring for a game this season. Have already played in two three-day tournaments (Rainbow Classic, Wooden Legacy) this season.
Diamond Head Classic experience: 10th appearance (highest finish is 3rd in 2015)
Famous basketball alumni: Tom Henderson, Anthony Carter

Indiana State (6-3)
Conference:
Missouri Valley
Head coach: Greg Lansing, 9th season
Top players: Jordan Barnes (5-11, Jr., G) 21.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.0 apg, 27-54 3-pointers (.500), 45-50 FTs (.900) … Tyreke Key (6-2, So, G) 17.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 13-21 3-pointers (.619) … Christian Williams (6-5, Jr., G), transfer from Iowa who just became eligible’ 13 points, 11 rebounds 3 assists in debut vs TCU last week.
Other notes: Lost at TCU, 90-70, on December 16. Finished 13-18 last season.
Diamond Head Classic experience: 3rd place in 2012
Famous basketball alumni: Larry Bird

Rhode Island (5-3)
Conference:
Atlantic-10
Head coach: David Cox, 1st season
Top players: Jeff Dowtin (6-3, Jr., G) 16.8 ppg, 4.3 apg, 4.1 rpg … Cyril Langevine (6-8, Jr., F) 15.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg, six double-doubles … Fatts Russell (5-10, So., G) 13.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.3 apg.
Other notes: Finished 26-8 last season, and advanced to second round of NCAA Tournament. Last year’s head coach Dan Hurley is now head coach at UConn.
Diamond Head Classic experience: first appearance
Famous basketball alumni: Lamar Odom

TCU (8-1)
Conference:
Big 12
Head coach: Jamie Dixon, 3rd season
Top players: Desmond Bane (6-5, Jr., G) 15.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.4 apg … Alex Robinson (6-1, Sr., G) 13.9 ppg, 8.6 apg (second in NCAA) … Kouat Noi (6-7, So., F) 13.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg … Jaylen Fisher (6-2, Jr., G) 11.7 ppg, 22 3-pointers in six games played … JD Miller (6-8, Sr., F) 11.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg.
Other notes: Team ranks in the top 15 of the NCAA with a .500 field goal percentage. Finished 21-12 last season, and lost in first round of NCAA Tournament.
Diamond Head Classic experience: First appearance
Famous basketball alumni: Scott Brooks, Kurt Thomas

UNLV (5-4)
Conference:
Mountain West
Head coach: Marvin Menzies, 3rd season
Top players: Kris Clyburn (6-6, Sr., G) 12.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg … Amauri Hardy (6-2, So., G), 11.6 ppg, 2.6 apg … Shakur Juiston (6-7, Sr., F) 10.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg … Cheikh Mbacke Diong (6-11, So., F) 8.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg, .667 FG pct.
Other notes: Marvin Menzies was the head coach at New Mexico State for nine season prior to taking over at UNLV. Finished 20-13 last season
Diamond Head Classic experience: 2nd place in 2009
Famous basketball alumni: Anthony Bennett, Larry Johnson, J.R. Rider, Reggie Theus

Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic Schedule
Saturday’s Games

10:00 a.m. – Colorado vs. Indiana State
12:00 p.m. – Hawai’i vs. UNLV
5:00 p.m. – Rhode Island vs. Bucknell
7:30 p.m. – TCU vs. Charlotte

Sunday’s Games
*11:30 a.m. – Semifinal game 1
*2:00 p.m. – Consolation game 1
5:00 p.m. – Semifinal game 2
7:30 p.m. – Semifinal game 2

Tuesday’s Games (Dec. 25)
*8:00 a.m. – 5th or 7th place game
*10:00 a.m. – 5th or 7th place game
*1:30 p.m. – 3rd place game
*4:30 p.m. – Championship game

* Potential Hawai’i game

3 Comments

  1. Nice breakdown!

  2. Thanks for the info! I did not know Jamie Dixon was gone for so long. I remember the game against Pitt on Maui because Oceanic didn’t want to fly there to televise. Ended up being a huge win for the Bows!

  3. Is Sheriff going to play? I haven’t seen any updates.

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