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2016 Diamond Head Classic preview: San Diego State and Utah headline the field

Mid-Major basketball dominates the bracket in what should be a competitive weekend of holiday hoops.

Hopefully y’all are settled in with you families, friends, and loved ones in the midst of the holiday season. As you enjoy the relaxation, home cooked meals, and all that comes with the festive season, ESPN Events, in conjunction with Hawaiian Airlines, has given us 12 elegant presents.

The eighth annual Diamond Head Classic tips off from Honolulu, Hawaii Thursday afternoon, with the semifinals and finals on the 23rd and 25th respectively.

Mid-major programs will be on full display in the Stan Sheriff Center with the Utah Utes being the lone program representing a power conference.

The game gifts were found early in subpar hiding spots and given clearance to be unwrapped early, so here is the bracket.

The Matchups

Tulsa vs. Stephen F. Austin

To kick off the tournament, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane clash with the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks at 4:30 p.m. ET. In a fairly even matchup, both teams are coming off wins and looking to gain momentum as well as consistency moving forward. Tulsa, with 10 newcomers, will focus on continuing to mesh and develop. With their balanced attack, the Lumberjacks will need to limit their turnovers and apply pressure getting to the basket. There, they can use their strength of getting to the foul line. The game can be seen on ESPNU and watchESPN.

San Diego State vs. Southern Miss

The Southern Miss Golden Eagles are hoping to get back on track as they are in the midst of a five-game losing skid. The Golden Eagles are minus 13.4 in scoring margin, so their defense must be stout. The San Diego State Aztecs must match their defensive effort from their win over Alabama State. Overall, the Aztecs are holding teams to 39 percent field goal shooting, which should give them confidence against the Golden Eagles as they shoot 40 percent on the season. The game will air on ESPN2 and watchESPN at 7 p.m. ET.

San Francisco vs. Utah

In what has the potential to be an upset, the San Francisco Dons tip against the Utah Utes at 11 p.m. ET on ESPNU and watchESPN. The Dons are led by their perimeter shooting, where they rank first in the WCC at 41.8 percent and fifth in the nation with 11.8 threes made per game. The Runnin’ Utes potent offense will be a challenge for the Dons. Utah has seven players averaging in double-digit scoring, making it tough to key in on one or two components for defensive preparation. This game may be high-flying and electric, but it might come down to who can control the boards and limit second-chance opportunities.

Illinois State vs. Hawaii

The Illinois State Redbirds are on a two-game win streak with an impressive home win over St. Joseph’s in their last outing. The veteran group is led by seniors Paris Lee and Deontae Hawkins. For the Rainbow Warriors, they will be eager to knock off some rust as they haven't played since their loss to Princeton on Dec. 7. Hawaii has been competitive in each contest this season and Noah Allen is finding his touch on the offensive end, which bodes well for a team that needs a boost in scoring. As the night-cap of day one of the tournament, ESPN2 and watchESPN will air the game at 1:30 a.m. ET.

The Diamond Classic field promises exposure of some surprise mid-major teams playing quality basketball. Be sure to grab a glass of eggnog or hot chocolate, and bask in the mid-major holiday spirit.