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2017 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic Primer

ESPN Events saved one of this season’s best exempt tournaments for last, as this event takes place over Christmas week.

The 2017 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic Bracket
Courtesy ESPN Events

To catch up on all of the posts in this series visit the 2017-18 Early Season Events Hub.

What Is It?

The Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic

How Long Has This Event Been Around?

From the 2015 primer (ignore the reference to the now-defunct Tip-Off Marathon)...

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?

The dates for this one are fixed—December 22nd, 23rd, and 25th—and so is the site, the Stan Sheriff Center on the campus of the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. This season, the dates correspond to Friday, Saturday, and Monday. As usual, ESPN airs the Hawai’i Bowl on the Christmas Eve rest day.

Who's Playing?

The eight 2017 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic participants
Graphic by Chris Dobbertean using logos from

This is a rather solid field, particularly when you consider how close this event is to the start of conference play. Here’s the quarterfinal lineup:

Here’s a full color bracket with tip times and broadcast info. You can also download one for yourself (Eastern Time and Hawai’i Time).

The full 2017 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic bracket
Courtesy ESPN Events

Are There Any Non-Bracketed Games?

While Princeton also takes on Miami in the second game of the HoopHall Miami Invitational showcase doubleheader earlier in December, that game is not tied to this tournament. However, the Tigers’ December 19th stopover at USC is.

Did Any Of These Teams Reach The 2017 Postseason?

Five of these squads qualified for the 2017 NCAA Tournament, with Middle Tennessee (Second Round) and USC (Second Round after escaping the First Four) winning games. New Mexico State would have met the Trojans in round two had the Aggies not been blasted by the Baylor Bears. Miami and Princeton also lost their openers, to the Michigan State Spartans and Notre Dame Fighting Irish, respectively.

Akron fell to the UT Arlington Mavericks in the second round of the NIT.

How Strong Is This Event?

Based on the average four-year rankings of the participants, the 2017 Diamond Head Classic ranks 5th out of 14 eight-team bracketed tournaments and 10th out of 38 bracketed tournaments.

Have Any Of These Teams Played In This Event Before?

USC won the first ever Diamond Head Classic in 2009, taking down UNLV 67-56. Miami went 1-2 and finished fourth in 2012, while Akron did the same one season later.

Hawai’i still has yet to finish higher than third since this event began in 2009.

What About Other ESPN Events Tournaments?

Middle Tennessee and New Mexico State are the only two teams of these eight that don’t have a prior ESPN Events tournament appearance in their history, though Princeton has made just one, a seventh-place finish in the 2014 Wooden Legacy.

Last season, Davidson went 2-1 in the relocated Puerto Rico Tip-Off at Walt Disney World, while Miami went 1-2 in the AdvoCare Invitational that followed a week later.

USC claimed the inaugural 76 Classic title in Anaheim in 2007, while Miami has won both the Puerto Rico Tip-Off (2007 and 2015) and Charleston Classic (2009 and 2014) twice. The Hurricanes defeated Akron in the semifinals of their second win in South Carolina, while the Zips knocked off USC in the quarterfinals.

This season’s fourth quarterfinal between Miami and Hawai’i will be a rematch of 2012’s, won by the Canes 73-58.

Are There Any Other Notable Recent Meetings Between These Teams?

New Mexico State and Hawai’i, former WAC rivals have the most history here. The Aggies dominated the in-conference series, winning eight of the final 11 WAC showdowns, adding a 95-88 victory in the 2013 Rainbow Classic. So far, that’s the lone meeting between the pair since the Rainbow Warriors headed to the Big West.

USC blew out NMSU in the 2010 Hall of Fame Tip-Off in Springfield, Mass. by an 80-61 score. Two years earlier, the Trojans defeated the Aggies by 13 in L.A.

Just last season, Princeton defeated Hawai’i in the Pearl Harbor Classic, 75-62, while Miami defeated the Tigers by 12 in Coral Gables in 2015.

The Canes not only defeated Akron in the 2014 Charleston Classic, they also took out the Zips in the South Point Holiday Hoops Classic in 2010. Middle Tennessee took three of four from Akron during a series that stretched from 2011 to 2014. However, the Zips defeated Princeton in their lone recent meeting—in the final days of 2012 in Ohio.

Akron missed Hawai’i during its 2013 Diamond Head Classic trip, as did USC in 2009. Davidson and Miami didn’t meet in the 2009 Charleston Classic.

Who Won 2016’s Edition?

The San Diego State Aztecs defeated the San Francisco Dons 62-48 to win the 2016 championship.

Did Any 2016 Teams Reach The Postseason?

While the Aztecs didn’t play beyond the Mountain West Tournament, four participants played in postseason event. However, none reached the NCAAs. Illinois State (second round) and Utah (first round) were selected for the NIT, while Stephen F. Austin ( and San Francisco (CBI) lost their first round games in competitions further down the prestige ladder.

Will This Event Be On TV?

Naturally, ESPN outlets will air all 12 games. The quarterfinals are all currently set for ESPNU, with the final on ESPN2. Just one game, a consolation semifinal, is an ESPN3 exclusive.

Pac-12 Network will carry USC’s home non-bracketed game with Princeton.

Who’s Your Pick To Win It?

USC could be a Final Four-caliber team this year, so they’ll be favored. Miami should make it through out of a weaker lower bracket. Remember, the top half features three NCAA squads and an NIT outfit.


Middle Tennessee over Princeton
USC over Akron
New Mexico State over Davidson
Miami over Hawai’i


USC over Middle Tennessee
Miami over New Mexico State
(consolation) Princeton over Akron
(consolation) Davidson over Hawai’i


Championship: USC over Miami
3rd/4th: Middle Tennessee over New Mexico State
5th/6th: Princeton over Davidson
7th/8th: Hawai’i over Akron

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