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2016 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic Primer: A Quartet Of 2016 NCAA Teams Will Play In Honolulu

Each of the four has significant questions to answer before Christmas week, however. That means the field's lone NIT squad, the San Diego State Aztecs, will have the chance to bring the trophy back to the Mainland.

2016 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic Bracket
2016 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic Bracket
ESPN Events

To catch up on all of the posts in this series visit the 2016-17 Early Season Events hub.

What Is It?

The Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic (official website)

How Long Has This Event Been Around?

From last season's primer...

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.

When And Where Is It?

Seven of the participants will fly to Honolulu, where they'll meet host Hawai'i at the Stan Sheriff Center to play 12 games over four days. As is now traditional, the quarterfinals are scheduled for Thursday, December 22nd and the semifinals for Friday, December 23rd. After the tournament takes Christmas Eve off for the Hawai'i Bowl, play resumes with the placement games on Christmas Day, Sunday, December 25th.

Who's Playing?

The eight teams are grouped by quarterfinal.

Tulsa
Tulsa Golden Hurricane (American) 
vs. 
Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (Southland)
SFA
SDSU
San Diego State Aztecs (MW) 
vs. 
Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (C-USA)
USM
San Francisco
San Francisco Dons (WCC)
vs.
Utah Utes (Pac-12)
Utah
Illinois St
Illinois State Redbirds (MVC) 
at
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (Big West)
Hawaii

Logos from SportsLogos.net

The full bracket is below, courtesy of ESPN Events.

DHC 2016

Did Any Of These Teams Make The NCAAs or NIT Last Season?

Four—Hawai'i, Stephen F. Austin, Tulsa, and Utah—made the field of 68, with all but the Golden Hurricane, one of the most controversial at-large selections in history—winning a single game. Additionally, San Diego State lost to the George Washington Colonials in the NIT semifinals.

Note that the Rainbow Warriors are ineligible for this postseason.

Are There Any Non-Bracketed Games?

While Tulsa is scheduled to host Illinois State on December 7th, I'm not sure it actually counts as a non-bracketed game. Both squads only released 12-game non-conference schedules, meaning their regular seasons will total 30, not 31 games. Plus, the date is just outside of the two-week window required for the full completion of a multi-team event.

Have Any Of These Teams Made The Trip Before?

Utah went 0-3 in 2010, and by the time March 2011 rolled around, the Utes ended up 13-18 and head coach Jim Boylen was on his way out. In 2012, San Diego State defeated San Francisco in the quarterfinals en route to a championship game appearance. The Aztecs lost that one to the Arizona Wildcats, while the Dons defeated the ETSU Buccaneers in the seventh-place game.

As host, Hawai'i has appeared in each of the previous seven tournaments, but they've never finished higher than third.

Who's Played In Other ESPN Events Recently?

Last season, Utah claimed third in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, thanks to wins over the Texas Tech Red Raiders and Temple Owls, with a loss to the Miami Hurricanes sandwiched between. All three of those teams joined the Utes in the NCAAs.

San Diego State swept through the 2013 Directv Wooden Legacy field to take that event's title. In 2011, two losses followed Tulsa's Charleston Classic quarterfinal win over the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. One season before, the Golden Hurricane did the reverse, picking up two victories after falling to the UNLV Runnin' Rebels in the 76 Classic quarters.

Also in 2010, Southern Mississippi finished second in the first-and-only edition of the Cancun Governors' Cup to the Colorado State Rams, the team then-coach Larry Eustachy would take over just two seasons later.

Any Other Notable Recent Meetings?

Just last season, San Diego State took out Illinois State on Opening Night in a Missouri Valley/Mountain West Challenge matchup by a 71-60 tally. The Aztecs also lost by five to Utah in November 2015, a season after they defeated the Utes at home in a similar Tip-Off Marathon game.

Utah eliminated Stephen F. Austin from the 2015 NCAAs, thanks to a 57-50 Round of 64 win in Portland. The Lumberjacks won at Tulsa by a 57-41 count in November of 2012.

San Francisco drubbed Hawai'i by 15 on November 24, 2014 in the first round of the Gulf Coast Showcase. Remember that the Rainbow Warriors can participate in multiple exempt events per season to alleviate their scheduling challenges. One year earlier, the Dons lost by 14 to Illinois State in their own tournament, the Golden Gate Challenge.

In 2011, San Francisco and Southern Miss. both traveled to Anchorage for the Great Alaska Shootout, but didn't meet.

The Golden Eagles and Golden Hurricane were both Conference USA members starting in 2004-05 and ending with Tulsa's departure for the American Athletic Conference for the 2014-15 season.

Who Won Last Year?

The 2015 title went to the Oklahoma Sooners, who were 83-71 victors over the Harvard Crimson in the championship game.

Did Any 2015 Entrants Make The NCAAs Or NIT?

Three reached the NCAAs, with the Sooners eliminated in the Final Four. On the other hand, the Northern Iowa Panthers and host Hawaii both fell in the Second Round. The BYU Cougars made it to the NIT, where the Valparaiso Crusaders topped them in the semifinals.

Will It Be On TV?

All 12 games will appear on an ESPN outlet, with the third-place and championship games slotted for ESPN2 on Christmas night on the Mainland. At least one game, and up to three, will be ESPN3 only.

Who Do You Think Will Win?

This is yet another tournament featuring several quality teams from 2015-16 that have some question marks heading into 2016-17. Stephen F. Austin, Tulsa, and Utah were particularly hard hit by departures, with the Lumberjacks losing head coach Brad Underwood to the Oklahoma State Cowboys. However, the late date of the Diamond Head Classic will give all of the participants some time to figure things out before heading to O'ahu for one last test before conference play begins.

This could be a breakout even for a San Diego State squad that disappointed last season before its NIT run.

Quarterfinals

Stephen F. Austin over Tulsa
San Diego State over Southern Mississippi
Utah over San Francisco
Hawai'i over Illinois State

Semifinals

Consolation: Tulsa over Southern Miss. and Illinois State over San Francisco
Championship: San Diego State over Stephen F. Austin and Utah over Hawai'i

Placement Games

7th/8th Place: San Francisco over Southern Mississippi
5th/6th Place: Illinois State over Tulsa
3rd/4th Place: Hawai'i over Stephen F. Austin
Championship: San Diego State over Utah

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