The combination of Christmas time, college basketball and Hawaii can only mean that the latest edition of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic is right around the corner. Eight teams from across the country are set to begin competing over a four-day period on December 22 and finishing up with action on Christmas Day.
With the only break in the action coming on Christmas Eve, fans will be able to check out 12 different games over the other three days at the Stan Sherrif Center in Honolulu. Each of the contests serves as the buildup to the Diamond Head Classic championship game, which will be played on Christmas Day beginning at 3 p.m. local time.
The host Hawaii Rainbow Warriors are looking to better their third place finishes in each of the last two years in this holiday tournament and hold a 12-9 overall record as a host.
A strong contender for that championship could be the San Diego State Aztecs, a team that’s won three consecutive regular season titles in the Mountain West Conference. Another West Coast team will be the San Francisco Dons, a squad in the midst of a rebuilding year.
Moving further east, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane and the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks are two teams from the Southwest that are ready to compete. Tulsa has compiled a 43-23 record under head coach Frank Haith the past two years, while the Lumberjacks have dominated play in the Southland Conference, making the NCAA Tournament for the last three years.
The Utah Utes finished second in the Pac-12 last year and usually have a feisty group of players ready for action. Meanwhile, the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles are traveling to Hawaii for the first time in 18 years. Finally, the Illinois State Redbirds bring a veteran group to the islands and are seeking to better their second place finish in the Missouri Valley Conference last year.
All 12 games will take place at Honolulu’s Stan Sheriff Center, with ESPN broadcasting each of the contests. Six of the matchups, including the championship game, will be on ESPN2. Three others will be shown on ESPNU, while two others are presented on ESPNU.
Last season, the Oklahoma Sooners won the Diamond Head title with an 83-71 victory over the Harvard Crimson. The Sooners’ Buddy Hield won MVP honors and went on to become a first round draft pick of the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans.
Among the teams competing this year, San Diego State has come the closest to capturing a title. They dropped the 2012 championship game in a heartbreaker, losing 68-67 to the Arizona Wildcats.
Two years earlier, the Butler Bulldogs won the title by knocking off Washington State in the title game, 84-68. The Bulldogs had competed in the national title game the year before and would go on to match that accomplishment by the end of that season.
The Diamond Head Classic has become a Christmas tradition in just eight years and figures to deliver another dose of holiday excitement to basketball fans everywhere.