The 2022 college basketball season is still a little over three months away, but the NCAA recently released the early season and multi-teams events. I will look at the field for the 57th Rainbow Classic held in Honolulu (HI), which annually is one of the first regular-season tournaments. The 2022 event will be held from Nov. 11-13 at the Stan Sherriff Center.
The Rainbow Classic uses a round-robin format with all four teams playing each other. Yale, Eastern Washington, and Mississippi Valley will join host Hawai’i in this year’s event. Northern Colorado and Hawai’i each finished last year’s classic at 2-1, with the Bears taking the title due to their 81-78 victory over the Rainbows.
Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors
Hawai’ i is arguably coming off its best season since coach Eran Ganot’s first season leading the program, which was the last time that the Rainbows made the NCAA Tournament. The Rainbows finished last year with a 17-13 record, including finishing second in the Big West.
Hawai’i was tough defensively, rebounded the ball, and shot the three-ball very well last year. While they lost two starters and a key reserve big man from last year’s squad, the Rainbows have some big-time talent returning.
All-Big West second team selection Noel Coleman leads the returnees. Coleman had the best season of his collegiate career last year, producing 14.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.0 assists. The 6-foot-1 junior guard was also deadly from beyond the arc, draining 2.3 treys a game at a 44.1% clip.
Meanwhile, Bernardo da Silva and Kameka Hepa give Hawai’i one of the most talented frontcourts in the Big West. Both players are efficient scorers, good rebounders, and strong defenders though Hepa can also knock down shots consistently from the perimeter. Veteran guards Samuata Avea and Juan Munoz – both of whom sat out last year due to injuries – also return, while Ganot brought in Washington State transfer Ryan Rapp as well as a pair of freshmen who will provide much-needed frontcourt depth in Australian Harry Rouhliadeff and Senegal native Mor Seck.
Yale (19-12) is coming off its second straight NCAA Tournament appearance and the third since 2015-16 under head coach James Jones, the program’s all-time winningest coach. Last year also was the eighth straight year that the Bulldogs finished with a winning record.
Yale lost its top two scorers to graduation, but they will still have plenty of experience and height returning. Matt Knowling, a versatile and athletic forward, tops the returnees as he averaged 7.2 points and 4.0 caroms. Mattheu Cotton, Isaiah Kelly, and Ed Jarvis are also key returnees, and they all are taller than 6-5 and averaged at least six points and three rebounds a year ago.
Eastern Washington Eagles
Eastern Washington has been one of the top teams in the Big Sky for the past eight years, posting an 18-16 record and playing in the Basketball Classic under first-year head coach David Riley. Like typical Big Sky teams, the Eagles excelled on offense and struggled defensively a year ago.
Riley returns three of his top five scorers – led by 6-7 guard Steele Venters – and brought in eight newcomers, including several DI transfers. Venters, who can really shoot the ball, led the Eagles with 16.7 points and 2.6 3-pointers while knocking them down at a 43.4% clip. The other two top returnees, Angelo Allegri (12.1 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.5 SPG) and Ethan Price (9.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.1 APG), can also shoot the ball from deep.
Most of Riley’s newcomers are expected to make an immediate impact as they are versatile, can shoot the ball, and are athletic. Jacksonville University transfer Tyreese Davis, Ty Harper, a transfer from Louisiana Lafayette, and former UTEP and Fresno State guard Deon Stroud (8.2 PPG in 2021-22) are the ones to keep an eye on.
Mississippi Valley Delta Devils
Mississippi Valley has been one of the worst teams in college basketball in recent years. The Delta Devils have won just seven games over the last three seasons, and they have not won 10 contests since 2010-11. Now, it will be former MVSU legend George Ivory’s job to try to turn the program around.
Ivory, who comes over from Arkansas-Pine Bluff, has his work cut out for him as the Delta Devils were on of the worst shooting and defensive teams in the nation a year ago. Ivory also had to retool the roster as only two of last year’s key contributors may return, forward Gary Grant (10.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG) and guard Terry Collins (9.7 PPG).
While the Rainbow Classic is a far cry from the tournament that it once was, it does allow teams that wouldn’t play in Hawai’i to visit. I believe this year’s event will be better than most expect, as MVSU appears to be the only team that will be outmatched. However, since it is a round-robin event, the Delta Devils may be able to pull of an upset though they have not won a nonconference game in over three seasons.
I do believe that Hawai’i is the best team in the classic, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they fell to Eastern Washington as the Eagles are the only team in the event that can score like the Rainbows. The Rainbows are 11-4 in the last five years of the Rainbow Classic, having gone 3-0 just once during this span. So, I will put Hawaii as No. 1, Eastern Washington as No. 2, Yale at No. 3, and MVSU last.
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