Auburn basketball to play in 2011 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic

AUBURN----Auburn Basketball will play in the 2011 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic along with Clemson, Kansas State, Xavier, UTEP, Long Beach State, Southern Illinois and host Hawaii on Dec. 22, 23 and 25, ESPN Regional Television, Inc., announced.

"We are very excited that Auburn has been invited to participate in such a prestigious tournament as the Diamond Head Classic, said Auburn head coach Tony Barbee. This is part of the process in building a national program at Auburn, and it will be a wonderful experience for our players both on the court and off." 
This will mark Auburn's third trip to the Hawaiian Islands for a tournament as the Tigers won the 1998 United Airlines Tip-Off Classic in Honolulu and played in the 1996 Big Island Invitational in Hilo.

The Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, an eight-team men's college basketball tournament, will feature 12 games through three days at Stan Sheriff Center on the campus of the University of Hawaii. The Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, also owned by ESPN Regional
Television, will be played Dec 24.

Each team will compete in one game per day, advancing through a bracket-tournament format. The two teams that remain undefeated throughout will face off in a championship match on Christmas day.

The addition of the Big 12's Kansas State, the SEC's Auburn and a Southern Illinois team that has been in the NCAA Tournament six of the last nine years, adds to an already talented field, said David Matlin, executive director of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic. The 2011 edition of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic promises to be an exciting three days of basketball.

The 2011 field includes a mix of perennial powers and up-and-coming teams:

Auburn is under the direction of first-year head coach Tony Barbee who led 2011 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic participant UTEP to 26 wins last year. His rebuilding project at Auburn boasts the addition of three potential starters in 2011-12 who are redshirting this season, including 2010 leading scorer Frankie Sullivan, a pair of talented Division I transfers and three highly-touted signees.

Clemson is coming off four straight 20-win seasons and three consecutive trips to the NCAA Championship.  The Tigers have advanced to the postseason six straight seasons and are currently 18-9 overall and 7-6 in the Atlantic Coast Conference under first-year head coach Brad Brownell.

Hawaii will again serve as the tournament host after finishing fifth in the 2010 Diamond Head Classic. The Rainbow Warriors are under the direction of first-year head coach Gib Arnold, who reeled in a recruiting class ranked as high as seventh in the nation. The Rainbow Warriors are currently 15-10 overall and have already achieved its highest win total in four seasons.

Kansas State, ranked No. 3 in the 2010-11 preseason poll, owns an 18-9 record, including a recent victory over top-ranked Kansas. The Wildcats enjoyed a historic 2009-10 season, posting a school-record 29 wins and advancing all the way to the NCAA Elite Eight before falling to eventual NCAA runner-up and 2010 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic Champion Butler.

Long Beach State finished one win shy of qualifying for the 2010 NCAA Tournament, advancing to the Big West Conference Tournament championship game.  In 2009-10, The Beach won 17 games despite facing the toughest non-conference schedule in the country. This season, Long
Beach State stands at 17-10 and with an 11-2 league mark is closing in on its first Big West Conference title in four years.

Southern Illinois has advanced to the postseason in seven of the last nine seasons, including a string six straight NCAA Championship appearances. The Salukis look for a return to greatness in the Missouri Valley Conference under seventh-year head coach Chris Lowery.

With a 20-6 mark, Xavier has recorded its sixth straight 20-win season and 14th such season in the last 15 years. Xavier has made nine NCAA Championship appearances in the last 10 years, including a pair of Elite Eight appearances. The Musketeers are currently ranked No. 25 in the nation and sit alone in first place at 11-1 in the Atlantic 10 Conference.

UTEP has produced a 20-7 record thus far this season under first-year head coach Tim Floyd. This year's 20-win squad comes off the heels of a banner 2009-10 season in which the  Miners posted a 26-7 record, blitzed through Conference USA play with a 15-1 mark and earned rankings in both top 25 polls for the first time in 18 years.

Additional information can be found on the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond
Head Classic's official Web site: