HONOLULU — Of all the success the Utah basketball team has enjoyed over the years, winning early season tournaments has not been part of its history.
While the Utes have won a handful of four-team, out-of-state tournaments over the years, they've never won a non-conference eight-team bracketed tournament in 18 tries going back to the days of Jack Gardner.
Since the Utes, or Runnin' Redskins as they were called back then, played in the Dixie Classic in North Carolina in 1956, they've never been able to win an eight-team tourney. Besides Gardner, Ute coaches Jerry Pimm, Lynn Archibald, Rick Majerus and Ray Giacoletti have all failed.
This week it will be coach Jim Boylen's turn, as he and the Utes will have the challenge of breaking that string when they play in the Diamond Head Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center at the University of Hawaii.
The 7-3 Utes will face last season's NCAA Tournament runner-up Butler in the opening round Wednesday at 9 p.m. MST (ESPNU). If they get past that game, they'll have the likes of Florida State of the ACC, No. 15-ranked Baylor of the Big 12, Mississippi State of the SEC and Washington State of the Pac-10 waiting in the wings.
Two years ago, the Utes were the official winners of the Glen Wilkes Classic, played mostly at Daytona Beach, Fla. The Utes finished with a 3-0 record and took home the tournament trophy, which broke a 31-year drought. However, the Glen Wilkes wasn't a real bracketed tournament as the Utes played a game against Green Bay in Salt Lake and then beat Mississippi and Morgan State in a pair of games in Florida.
Before that, Utah's last early-season tournament win had come in 1977 at the Volunteer Classic in Tennessee, which featured just four teams.
This week the Utes hope to build off Friday's come-from-behind victory over Boise State when five players scored in double figures led by Will Clyburn, who made the winning shot and scored 22 points.
The winner of Utah-Butler will play the Florida State-Hawaii winner Thursday. Other first-round matchups are Washington State-Mississippi State and Baylor-San Diego.
Here's a brief look at the other seven teams playing this week in Hawaii:
Baylor (7-1) — You usually don't think of basketball greatness when you say Baylor. But these days, the Bears have one of the better programs in college basketball. Last year the Bears made it to the Elite Eight and until losing to Gonzaga last week, the Bears were ranked No. 9 in the nation. LaceDarius Dunn averages 21.8 ppg.
Butler (6-4) — Except for a home loss to Evansville, the Bulldogs' other losses were to basketball powers Duke, Louisville and Xavier. Matt Howard (17.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and Shelvin Mack (14.7 ppg) are back from last year's team that excelled in Salt Lake City.
Florida State (9-2) — The Seminoles haven't played a great schedule and both of their losses have come to ranked teams, Florida and Ohio State. Forward Chris Singleton leads the team in scoring (14.3 ppg) and rebounding (7.6 rpg).
Hawaii (7-2) — The Warriors lost their only two games away from the islands, by 21 to BYU three weeks ago and a one-pointer at Cal Poly. Bill Amis, a 6-9 forward from Oklahoma, leads the team in scoring (15.8 ppg).
Washington State (8-1)
Washington State (8-1)— The Cougars are receiving votes in the rankings with a surprising start that includes a 22-point win over Gonzaga. Guard Klay Thompson averages 21 points on 48 percent shooting.
Mississippi State (7-3)
Mississippi State (7-3)— The Bulldogs played nine straight home games to start the season. Guard Ravern Johnson shoots 46.8 percent from 3-point range and averages 22.4 points.
San Diego (2-8)
San Diego (2-8)— The Toreros are the only team in the tournament with a losing record and have yet to defeat a Division I school. Darian Norris lead the team in points (11.0) and assists (2.8).
Utah basketball history in 8-team bracketed tournaments
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