BYU arrived in Honolulu, Hawaii Monday as they prepare for the 3-round Diamond Head classic December 22-25. BYU is the favorite to win the tournament, which would be their first time winning one of these MTE (multi-team event) tournaments since they won the San Padre Championship during Jimmer’s senior year in 2010.
There aren’t any high profile teams in the tournament, but BYU could add a couple quad two wins to its resume, which would just about sew up its spot in the NCAA Tournament before WCC play opens.
BYU’s opener versus South Florida will be at 7:30pm MT on ESPNU, and they will play their other two games on either ESPNU or ESPN2 depending on if they win or lose.
Below is quick preview of each team and BYU’s optimal path to boost its resume.
First Round Opponent: South Florida
KenPom Ranking: 235
Net Ranking: 262
KenPom odds: BYU 92% win probability, 70-54 score prediction
South Florida is the weakest team in the 8-team field. They finished 9-13 last year and don’t look any better this year. USF has some athletes and is good defensively, but they really struggle to score. KenPom has them ranked 331 in adjusted offensive efficiency and 355 (out of 358 teams) in three-point shooting. They are 308th in two-point shooting percentage and 294 in free throw shooting, so they can’t really make it from anywhere.
BYU can’t afford to overlook South Florida, however. They are long and they had a 15-point lead over #12 Auburn last month before the Tigers pulled it out late. If BYU plays close to what they did at Weber State Saturday then BYU should win comfortably and win by double digits.
Semifinal Opponents: Hawaii or Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt KenPom Ranking: 84
Vanderbilt Net Ranking: 99
Vanderbilt Record: 6-4
Hawaii KenPom Ranking: 220
Hawaii Net Ranking: 215
Hawaii Record: 4-3
Vanderbilt is the preferable opponent for BYU. They are an SEC team and have a good shot to end up as a quad two game, which is a top 100 Net team since its on a neutral floor. Vanderbilt has been up and down to start the year, but they have the preseason SEC player of the year in guard Scotty Pippen jr and would be another solid win on BYU’s resume. Vanderbilt will pull off some upsets in SEC play with their star guard, so a win for BYU over Vandy would mean something.
The tournament is on Hawaii’s home floor, so it would be considered a true road game for BYU. Hawaii has some decent pieces, but Vanderbilt is the preferable opponent.
Other Teams: Stanford, Wyoming, Liberty Northern Iowa
There really isn’t much separation between these four teams. None will likely get an at-large tournament bid, but they could all be top 100 teams by season’s end. Stanford would probably be my pick since they are top 100 KenPom team and the lone Power Conference team on the opposite side of the bracket.
KenPom Ranking: 90
Net Ranking: 127
Stanford doesn’t have great guards, but they have a lot of dudes between 6-7 and 6-9 that will give teams matchup problems.
KenPom Ranking: 109
Net Ranking: 19
There is usually one team each year that has an inflated Net ranking, and Wyoming is that team right now. They are 9-1 and have road wins over Grand Canyon and Washington. At the moment they are the only Quad One opportunity for BYU since they are top 50 in Net. I’d be good with BYU matching up with Wyoming in the finals. They have some frount court players that would challenge BYU.
KenPom Ranking: 121
Net Ranking: 128
Liberty made the NCAA tournament last year as a 13 seed and shoot a ton of threes. Not a big team, but a lot of guys that shoot the long ball.
KenPom Ranking: 114
Net Ranking: 162
UNI has only 3 wins over D1 teams, but one of those was versus a St Bonaventure team that was top 25 at the time.
Prediction: BYU wins
BYU is the best team in the tournament. They are 24th in KenPom, and the next highest is Vanderbilt at 84. BYU has found its shooting stroke the last 4 games, which is huge development as BYU plays smaller. Vanderbilt has the best player in the tournament in Scotty Pippen Jr and Stanford or Wyoming’s size could cause BYU some troubles, but I think BYU wins three games and wins its first non-conference tournament since 2010.
My guess for BYU’s path is a win over South Florida in the first round, a win over Vanderbilt in the semis, and a matchup versus Stanford or Wyoming in the finals.