Since it's inception in 2009, collegiate basketball teams have made the journey to the Hawaiian Islands to take part in the Diamond Head Classic. In what has become a bit of a tradition, coaches dress in tacky tourist apparel hoping to take home the trophy. Two years ago, the Iowa State Cyclones were crowned champions of this very tournament watching DeAndre Kane take home MVP honors. Now, the Oklahoma Sooners look to complete the feat once again and will be the odds on favorite to win it all. Here's a quick look at the programs on OU's side of the bracket.
Accumulating a mere 13 wins last season, this is a program continues to sit in rebuilding mode. Head Coach Ernie Kent knows what it takes to find success on the hardwood with 325 wins over 19 years of experience. The team must find a way to replace fifth leading scorer in school history, DeVonte Lacy. However, junior Josh Hawkinson may be the answer to the problem. Currently, Hawkinson averages a double-double providing steady production in the paint. However, don't sleep on another junior in guard Ike Iroegbu who can score in bunches.
Coming off a 31-4 year, the Panthers upset No. 1 North Carolina on November 21st. Nearly a month later Northern Iowa followed up the performance with another upset win, this time over No. 2 Iowa State on December 19th. Wes Washpun continues to carry the team to victory in the biggest of moments behind an average of 16.5 points each night. Look for this group to shoot the rock hitting 42% of their attempts from beyond the arc. Yet, this team ranks amongst the worst in rebounding (327th in the nation with 32.5 rebounds per game). A lack of size certainly doesn't help. Make no mistake,this is not a team to overlook or sleep on. UNI has proven they can compete and win on the big state with some of the best in the land.
Although Hawaii is a D-I Basketball program, the Rainbow Warriors continue to schedule D-II opponents throughout the nonconference portion of the year. With back-to-back wins over such programs, Hawaii sits at 7-1 and atop the Big West Conference. A Serbain native living the dream on the islands, Stefan Jankovic give the team size standing 6-11 and provides a scoring option down low. Currently, Jankovic pours in 15.4 points per game. On the perimeter Aaron Valdes contributes 18.1 points per game. However, the Rainbow Warriors lack the three point shooting a handful of other teams in this tournament possess. It could be their Achilles Heel.