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Holiday Hoops: Previewing the Diamond Head Classic

David Collier is a junior broadcast journalism major in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at Ole Miss.
Email him at dlcollie@go.olemiss.edu
The Ole Miss men’s basketball team is getting a little dose of luxury this weekend as they are one of eight teams taking part in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, which begins Saturday.
The Rebels will kickoff the tournament at 3 p.m. central time with a contest against Indiana State on ESPNU. If they win, they will play Sunday at 4 p.m., but if they lose their opening game, the Rebels will play at 2 p.m. Sunday. Ole Miss will play either San Diego State or San Francisco in their second game.
Other opening round matchups include San Diego State vs. San Francisco, Arizona vs. East Tennessee State and Miami vs. Hawaii. All games can be seen on ESPN2 or ESPNU.
The championship game of the tournament will be at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN2 on Christmas day.
With only a few nonconference games left on the schedule for Ole Miss, there aren’t many more opportunities to boost their resume in hopes of a NCAA Tournament berth in March.
Here’s a breakdown of each team in the tournament that the Rebels could find themselves matched up against over the weekend:
Indiana State
The Sycamores are off to a 5-3 start to the season, but they only return one starter from last year’s team, which went 18-15 and finished eighth in the Missouri Valley Conference. Ole Miss is 1-0 all-time against Indiana State.
Nine different players have started for Indiana State so far this year, but junior guard Jake Odum is their leader, averaging 15.5 points per game. Odum, a 6-foot-4, 170-pounder, is shooting 52 percent from the field.
San Diego State
The Aztecs are 9-1 on the year and have won nine in a row after dropping their season opener to Syracuse. San Diego State have wins over USC and UCLA this season and are currently ranked No. 18 in the country. Ole Miss leads the all-time series with the Aztecs 1-0.
Junior guard Jamaal Franklin leads the Aztecs in scoring with an average of 18.6 points per game to go along with 9.7 rebounds per contests.
San Francisco 
The Dons are 5-4 so far this season but enter this weekend’s tournament on a three-game losing skid. They do have a 16-point win over St. John’s earlier in the year, but things haven’t gone their way since. Ole Miss has never faced the Dons.
San Francisco is led on the floor by junior guard De’End Parker, who is averaging 15.4 points per game and shooting 59 percent from three-point range.
The Wildcats are currently ranked No. 4 in the nation and boost a perfect 9-0 record that includes wins over Florida, Clemson and Texas Tech. Ole Miss is 1-1 all-time against Arizona.
Three players are all putting up equal numbers for the Wildcats. Senior guard Mark Lyons, sophomore guard Nick Johnson and senior forward Soloman Hill have each started every game and are averaging 13.9, 13.6 and 12.9 points per game, respectively.
East Tennessee State
The Buccaneers are looking to play spoiler over the weekend as they head into Hawaii sitting at 2-7. Ole Miss holds a 5-1 lifetime advantage against the Buccaneers, including a 77-55 win earlier this season in Oxford.
East Tennessee State is led by freshman forward Lester Wilson, who is averaging 17.9 points per game this season.
The Hurricanes are 7-1 this season with a win over Michigan State and a loss to Florida Gulf Coast University. Miami has a 3-1 all-time series lead on Ole Miss, but the Rebels defeated the Hurricanes in Oxford last season, 64-61 in overtime.
Senior guard Durand Scott and sophomore guard Shane Larkin lead Miami in scoring with an average of 15.6 and 14.8 points per game, respectively. Senior center Reggie Johnson is averaging a double-double with 12.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per contest.
The host school holds a 5-3 record coming into the weekend, which includes a one-point loss to Illinois in November. Ole Miss has never faced Hawaii.
The Warriors are led by junior forward Christian Standhardinger. The 6-foot-8, 220-pounder is averaging 17.0 points per game this season to go along with eight rebounds per contest.
My Picks
First Round: Ole Miss over Indiana State. San Diego State over San Francisco. Arizona over East Tennessee State. Miami over Hawaii.
Second Round: San Diego State over Ole Miss. Arizona over Miami.
Championship: Arizona over San Diego State.
Follow David on Twitter @DavidLCollier

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