The Washington State men's basketball team will wrap up it's non-conference schedule down in Honolulu for the Diamond Head Classic this December. This tournament features eight teams playing three games spread out over four days with the champions crowned on Christmas Day.
With a cupcake non-conference schedule against teams such as Northern Arizona, Idaho State, and Portland, the Cougars will be heading down to Hawaii with some momentum; they should be able to go 7-2 or possibly 8-1 in their first nine games. The team's play during the tourney will certainly be used as a checkpoint in how the rebuild of the program is going. On paper, Washington State is the worst team in the field for the tournament with the Auburn Tigers a close second and the rebuilding New Mexico Lobos a distant third. The remaining five teams are conference championship-caliber programs. These include:
- Northern Iowa Panthers, winners of the Missouri Valley Conference in 2015
- Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, runner-ups in the Big West Conference tournament in 2015
- Harvard Crimson, winners of the Ivy League regular season title in 2015
- Oklahoma Sooners, advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in 2015
- BYU Cougars, advanced to the First Four as the #11 seed in 2015
The WSU Cougars will face off against Oklahoma on Tuesday, Dec. 22 for their first game in the tournament at 8 p.m. PT on ESPNU. Unless there's a Christmas miracle, Washington State will get smacked around by the Sooners. Oklahoma could very well start off the season as the No. 8 team in the nation
and have the Big 12 Conference Player of the Year on their roster in senior guard Buddy Hield,
who returned to school instead of opting for the NBA Draft.
If that happens, the Cougs will go up against the loser of the Northern Iowa/Hawaii game the following day at 8:30 p.m., also on ESPNU. If they play Northern Iowa, they'll
probably lose to a good mid-major program that advanced to the round of 32 in last season's NCAA tournament. If they play Hawaii, it'll be a road game against the host school who happens to be better than people give them credit for. Playing the worst-case scenario card, the Cougs would go up against Auburn for 7th place in the tournament on Christmas and that game would be quite interesting; two rebuilding teams with recently hired coaches who like to push the pace trying to make their programs prominent again in their respective divisions.
This is Washington State's first non-conference tournament since the Old Spice Classic back in November of 2013 where they went 1-2 with a win over Purdue and losses to Butler and Saint Joseph's.
Tournament information can be found here