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2015 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic: Primer And Bracket

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As the college basketball offseason—and summer—drags on, scheduling news provides fans with a little taste of what's to come between November and March. In this series, Blogging the Bracket's Chris Dobbertean examines this season's exempt tournaments, providing facts that will probably only be interesting to him. The final post in this series focused on bracketed tourneys examines the event that wishes Mele Kalikimaka to the college basketball world.

The 2015 Diamond Head Classic bracket
The 2015 Diamond Head Classic bracket
ESPN Events

To catch up on all of the posts in this series, visit the 2015-16 Early Season Events hub.

What is it?

The Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic (official website)

Where and when is it?

The Stan Sheriff Center on the campus of the University of Hawai `i is the home arena for this event which takes place on Tuesday, December 22nd, Wednesday, December 23rd, and Friday, December 25th. The Diamond Head Classic takes Christmas Eve off since that's when ESPN airs the Hawaii Bowl.

One non-bracketed game is currently scheduled for this event. It will take place on December 12th.

When did this event begin?

The first ESPN-run Diamond Head Classic was held in 2009 and won by USC. However, this tournament can be seen as the continuation of the eight-team, bracketed version of the Rainbow Classic, which dates back to 1964. The current version of that event is a four-team round-robin held at the beginning of the season, with one game typically played at 5 a.m. Eastern (12 a.m. Hawaii time) during ESPN's Tip-Off Marathon.

Will it be on TV?

As with all ESPN-owned and operated events, all 12 games will either air on an ESPN network or be streamed on ESPN3. But, any non-bracketed games revert to the home team's media rights holders.

Jog my memory. Who won in 2014?

George Washington shocked Wichita State, 60-54, in last season's final, a result that ultimately didn't help the Colonials earn an NCAA at-large.

Who is participating in 2015?

Seven teams will join the host Hawai `i Rainbow Warriors (Big West):

Auburn Tigers (SEC)
BYU Cougars (WCC)

Harvard Crimson (Ivy)
New Mexico Lobos (MW)
Northern Iowa Panthers (MVC) 

Oklahoma Sooners (Big 12)

Washington State Cougars (Pac-12)

The blue Cougars, Crimson, Panthers, and Sooners all qualified for the 2015 NCAA Tournament, with UNI winning a game and OU advancing to the Sweet 16.

Have any of these teams played in this event before?

Naturally, Hawaii has appeared in all six previous editions, though the home team has yet to reach a final. Auburn (2011, fourth place) and Washington State (runner-up to Butler, 2010) are the only two of the seven mainland teams making a return trip. The Tigers defeated Hawaii in the 2011 quarterfinals, but the Cougars missed the hosts one year before.

How about in other ESPN-owned events?

Of course. While BYU, Harvard, and UNI have yet to appear in an ESPN tournament and Hawaii has only played in this one, the other four have participated in a few.

New Mexico went 1-2 in last season's Puerto Rico Tip-Off and 2-1 in the 2013 Charleston Classic. Washington State won one and dropped a pair at the 2013 Old Spice Classic in Orlando, while Oklahoma finished third there in 2012. Auburn completed that season's Charleston Classic with a 1-2 mark.

Oklahoma and New Mexico both won two games at the 2011 Anaheim Classic, though the Sooners' loss came in the final against Saint Louis. Washington State went 0-3 in that event, falling to both OU and the Lobos.

Have any of these teams met in other recent exempt tournaments?

Just once since the "two in four" rule ended in 2006. Northern Iowa topped Auburn in the consolation game of the 2008 Chicago Invitational Challenge.

Washington State and Oklahoma were placed in different pools in the 2009 Great Alaska Shootout, a six-team affair, and the pair's results diverged—the Cougars won the title, while the Sooners finished fifth.

So, what does the bracket look like?

DHC

The 2015 Diamond Head Classic bracket, courtesy ESPN Events

Here's a PDF version of the bracket (Eastern Time).

I would have anticipated Oklahoma and Northern Iowa being separated, so the top half of this field looks incredibly open to me. Note that Harvard has won its last two bracketed exempt events. BYU will challenge the Crimson in the second quarterfinal, however.

I can see the actual bracket playing out as follows.

Quarterfinals
New Mexico over Auburn, unless Bruce Pearl's shirt blinds the Lobos temporarily
Harvard over BYU, though this will be close
Oklahoma over Washington State
Northern Iowa over Hawai `i

Consolation Semifinals
BYU over Auburn
Hawai `i over Washington State

Semifinals
Harvard over New Mexico, as the Lobos can't get revenge for the 2013 NCAAs
Oklahoma over Northern Iowa

Finals
7th/8th Place: Auburn over Washington State
5th/6th Place: BYU over Hawai `i
3rd/4th Place: Northern Iowa over New Mexico, as the pair meet for a second time
Championship: Oklahoma over Harvard

Tomorrow, it's time to turn our attention to March.

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