The Nebraska basketball team will face a tough challenge in the opening round of the 2014 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, when the Huskers face home-standing Hawaii in its tournament opener. The Huskers and Rainbow Warriors will tip off at Midnight (central) on Dec. 23, in a game televised nationally on ESPNU from the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu.
The Huskers, who return all five starters from a team that went 19-13 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament, face a Rainbow Warrior squad that returns eight letterwinners from a team that won 20 games, its highest win total in a decade, in 2013-14. Hawaii is led by junior forward Isaac Fotu, who earned first-team All-Big West honors by averaging 14.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Fotu is a teammate of Husker sophomore guard Tai Webster on New Zealand’s national team this summer. Hawaii was 14-5 at the Stan Sheriff Center in 2013-14.
Other first-round matchups on Monday, Dec. 22, include Ohio University vs. George Washington (1:30 p.m.), DePaul vs. Colorado (3:30 p.m.) and Loyola Marymount vs. Wichita State (10 p.m.). Fans in Lincoln will see the Huskers play twice on television on Dec. 23, as Nebraska will face either defending Missouri Valley Champion Wichita State or Loyola Marymount in the second round on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.
Nebraska is 2-6 against Hawaii all-time with all eight previous meetings taking place in the state of Hawaii. While the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic is in its sixth year of existence, Nebraska has squared off with Hawaii three other times in holiday tournaments (1979, 1997 and 2006) when the Huskers played in the Rainbow Classic. The Huskers will be looking for their first win over Hawaii since 1976.
Nebraska is 6-5 all-time against Wichita State, but the teams have not met in the regular season since 1993. The last meeting between the Huskers and Shockers, who went 35-1 and finished the 2013-14 regular season ranked second in the country, was a WSU win in the first round of the 2011 NIT. The Huskers have faced Loyola Marymount only once, a 67-66 win on Dec. 12, 1980.
The multi-day, destination event will feature 12 games over three days. Each team will compete in one game per day, advancing through a bracketed-tournament format. Three of the 12 matchups, including the championship game, will be showcased on ESPN2. ESPNU will carry seven games, and one will be exclusive to ESPN3.
Five of the participating teams appeared in the 2013-14 postseason, including Nebraska, Wichita State, Colorado, George Washington, all of which earned second-round berths in the NCAA Championship. Ohio advanced through the quarterfinals of the Collegeinsider.com Postseason Tournament.