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Why BYU basketball is ‘the team to beat’ at Diamond Head Classic

The Cougars are one of eight programs to compete at the multi-team event to be held Dec. 22, 23 and 25 at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. 

BYU coach Mark Pope claps on the sideline of a game against the Pacific Tigers at the Marriott Center in Provo.
Brigham Young Cougars head coach Mark Pope works the sideline during the game against the Pacific Tigers at the Marriott Center in Provo on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. ESPN lai out why BYU is “the team to beat” in the Diamond Head Classic this upcoming season.
Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

BYU is “the team to beat” at the Diamond Head Classic, according to ESPN.

The Cougars are one of eight programs to compete at the multiteam event to be held Dec. 22, 23 and 25 at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.

BYU faces South Florida in its first game, with the winner taking on either Hawaii or Vanderbilt. The other teams in the field are Liberty, Northern Iowa, Wyoming and Stanford.

ESPN’s Myron Medcalf projected the Cougars as the Diamond Head Classic champions.

“Mark Pope lost some key players but star Alex Barcello (16.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 4.3 APG, 47.7% from the 3-point line) could be the most dominant player — apologies to Vandy’s Scotty Pippen Jr. (20.8 PPG) — in this event,” Medcalf wrote. “Plus, Milwaukee transfer Te’Jon Lucas (14.9 PPG, 5.8 APG) should make an immediate impact, too.”

Pope said he’s excited about playing in Honolulu in December.

“The field is incredibly competitive. It’s not the biggest names in all of basketball but you take a team like Liberty that’s just been unbelievable the last three years,” Pope told BYU Sports Nation Thursday. “They might not be a national name but … we know they are a top 50 team that’s going to be a problem. The field is full of teams like that.”

Medcalf picked Liberty, led by Darius McGhee, as the “sleeper team” at the event. The Flames won 23 games and earned a berth to the NCAA Tournament last season.