Hawai’i coach Charlie Wade is getting his ideal tournament field for the upcoming Outrigger Invitational.
Wade said Monday in an interview with Off the Block that for the second consecutive year Penn State, Ohio State and UCLA will participate along with Hawai’i at its annual home tournament during the 2014 season.
“That’s kind of our ideal field for us,” Wade said. “You’ve got a lot of teams with a lot of history and all perennially, national competitive teams. They are teams that people identify with and will come out and watch.”
All four teams finished last season ranked in the national coaches poll, and in their program histories have won a combined 23 NCAA championships. In addition, Penn State reached the four-team 2013 NCAA Tournament, while UCLA finished No. 4 in the national coaches poll and was among the teams being considered for the lone at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Wade said he likes making the early-season Outrigger Invitational as competitive as possible because it helps prepare his team for its MPSF schedule.
“We like playing the best teams,” he said. “The beautiful thing about playing in the MPSF is you have to play your best everyone night to have a chance to win. The Outrigger gives us a chance to get some significant non-conference dates in there. It is one the premier events and has been for a long time.”
UCLA and Penn State both finished last year’s Outrigger Invitational tied for first-place at 2-1 but the Bruins won the tournament title because they held the head-to-head tiebreaker with a five-game victory against the Nittany Lions. Hawai’i and Ohio State both ended tied for third place at 1-2.
The 2013 Outrigger Invitational was also one of the closest events in the tournament’s 20-year history as five of the six matches went five games.
Similar to the previous two years, Wade said, he is attempting to schedule a couple of matches for the Rainbow Warriors before their home non-conference tournament so they are not opening the season with the Outrigger Invitational. The coach said those matches have not been finalized yet but will likely be exhibition matches against Canadian colleges.
The Rainbow Warriors finished last season winning four of their final six regular season matches to earn the final berth to the MPSF Tournament. In addition, Hawai’i almost upset No. 1 BYU in the opening round of the MPSF Tournament before losing in five games.
With a majority of its starters returning, Wade said the expectations are high for Hawai’i to not only return to the postseason but to finish in the top four of the MPSF.
“We have a shot to get in the top half,” he said. “For us in this league it’s get yourself in position to be one of those top four teams where you can host a first-round postseason game in our league.”