The bracket details were released this morning for the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic which will take place December 22-25 in Hawaii. Washington will take on the UTEP Miners in the 1st round in a field which also includes Houston, Georgia Tech, Boise State, Ball State, Hawaii and Portland. The participants had been announced previously but the full list of matchups, times, and TV channels are new.
The Huskies will start off the tournament against UTEP at 6:30pm PT on ESPN on Sunday December 22nd. The bracket is somewhat unclear as to the order of events after that point but it appears if the Huskies win that game that Washington would then play the winner of Ball State/Hawaii on Monday December 23rd at 8:00pm PT on ESPNU. In what is either a nonsensical decision or an error, the consolation games are on ESPN2 while the winner’s bracket matches are on ESPNU. Finally, a potential championship game would take place on Christmas Day 5:30pm PT on ESPN2. Just in time for Christmas dinner for those that celebrate the holiday...
An initial game against UTEP likely won’t present many problems. The miners finished 8-21 (3-15) on the way to a last point finish in Conference USA. They finished 299th in the final KenPom rankings and were one of the worst teams in the country. However, they lose only one senior and everyone else on the team was a sophomore or freshman. Now they’re all juniors and sophomores and just from experience alone should take a big leap up.
The winner of Ball State/Hawaii can’t be taken lightly either. Hawaii finished #201 last season at KenPom but upset Utah in the first round of this tournament a year ago and they’ll have home court advantage. Ball State finished #133 a year ago but will be losing their starting point guard and starting center from that team.
The expectation is that Washington will face off against Houston in the finals. The Cougars reached the Sweet 16 this past season and were a borderline top-10 team all year. Just like the Huskies they lost a ton of talent with three senior starters graduating and another starter leaving early for the NBA draft. Unlike Washington however they didn’t add a pair of 5-star freshmen. However, if former Kansas 5-star Quentin Grimes can get a waiver to play right away then the Cougars will still have plenty of premium talent to compete with. Should an upset occur along the way then both Boise State and Georgia Tech should be top-100 teams capable of beating the Huskies as well if they get sloppy.
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