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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, December 27, 2003

Classic will be a 'mid-major' showcase

 •  Rainbow Classic team capsules

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

Picture a team picture and you'll get an idea of what this year's Rainbow Classic is like.

All the little guys, move to the front.

Where: Stan Sheriff Center

• Schedule:

Game 1: IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis) vs. East Tennessee State, 5:05 p.m.
Game 2: Hawai'i vs. Lamar, 7:35 p.m.

Game 3: Bowling Green vs. Fairfield, 5:05 p.m.
Game 4: American vs. Pepperdine, 7:35 p.m.

Game 5: Loser Game 1 vs. loser Game 2, 11:05 a.m.
Game 6: Loser Game 3 vs. loser Game 4, 1:35 p.m.
Game 7: Winner Game 3 vs. winner Game 4, 5:05 p.m.
Game 8: Winner Game 1 vs. winner Game 2, 7:35 p.m.

Seventh Place, 11:05 a.m.
Fifth Place, 1:35 p.m.
Third Place, 5:05 p.m.
Championship, 7:05 p.m.

• Television: Live on KFVE.

• Radio: Live on 1420 AM. Webcast link on uhathletics.hawaii.edu

• Ticket Prices: Packages: $68 (lower level — single seats only); $52 (upper level). Individual night sessions (on game day only): $16 (lower level — single seats only); $12 (upper level). Individual day sessions: $5 (general admission).

• Parking: $3
The 40th annual Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic — 12 games over four days starting today at the Stan Sheriff Center — will be a showcase for teams not normally associated with a showcase tournament.

"It's like a mini-Bracket Buster," said Fairfield head coach Tim O'Toole, referring to the ESPN Bracket Buster event in February that pits so-called "mid-major" teams against each other. "I don't know if that's what they were trying to create, but that's what it turned out to look like."

This year's Rainbow Classic does not have a team from any of the power conferences of college basketball. Instead, the field will consist of the host University of Hawai'i men's basketball team, and seven first-time participants.

"That makes it more interesting," UH head coach Riley Wallace said. "Nobody has an idea of what's going to happen. It's one of those things where anybody can win it and it won't be a surprise."

In truth, the Rainbow Warriors are being labeled the tournament favorite by the other coaches.

The 'Bows are the two-time defending champion of the Rainbow Classic. No team has ever won three in a row.

"You have to look at Hawai'i first because they're playing at home," East Tennessee State head coach Murry Bartow said. "But after that, it's a real competitive, real even field."

East Tennessee State is one of the best examples of a good-team-you've-never-heard-of playing in this year's Rainbow Classic.

The Buccanneers return all five starters from last season's team that came up three points short of a monumental first-round upset of Wake Forest in the NCAA Tournament. They are ranked No. 5 in this week's Mid-Major Top 10 on ESPN.com.

"We've played fairly well at this point of the season," said Bartow, who is in his first year at ETSU. "But this is going to be our toughest test. We have a tough first-round game (against IUPUI) and it gets tougher from there."

IUPUI also played in the NCAA Tournament last season. Not bad for a program that was in Division II as recently as 1998.

The Jaguars feature Odell Bradley, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound forward who is averaging 22.8 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. Statistically, he is one of the top players in the country — only four others in NCAA Division I were averaging at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game prior to this week.

As Fairfield's O'Toole put it: "You're going to see good teams you're not used to seeing, and that also means you're going to see good players you're not used to seeing."


Fairfield has one in Deng Gai, a 6-9 forward from Sudan who leads the nation with 5.7 blocked shots per game.

"We know what he can do, but few people outside of that know about him," O'Toole said. "This is a big opportunity for him, too."

Because all the visiting teams are Rainbow Classic rookies, a majority of the players are visiting Hawai'i for the first time.

Shortly after going over his game strategy during practice yesterday, American University head coach Jeff Jones instructed his team about the importance of sun screen.

"We came in (Thursday) night and had a late meal," Jones said. "As soon as we finished, a couple of the guys went straight to the beach. This was 10 o'clock at night. They just wanted to feel the sand and water under their feet, that's how excited they were."

Jones considered the Rainbow Classic invitation such an honor that he canceled two home games to accommodate the tournament.

"Coming here might not end up being the wisest thing as far as wins and losses," he said.

"But for a program like ours, just participating in this tournament is very special. No matter who's in it, it's a big thing if you can win it."

Before his team's practice yesterday afternoon, O'Toole made sure every Fairfield player drank a full cup of water.

"We're from Connecticut, we're not used to this humidity," he said.

Hawai'i might be the one team used to the heat, but it has been turned up on the Rainbow Warriors this week.

"We're looking to win it," said senior co-captain Phil Martin. "There's pressure that comes with that, but we want to be known as the team that won three in a row."

Security checks: For security purposes, all bags will be searched prior to entry at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Reach Dayton Morinaga at dmorinaga@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-8101.