(Photo: goblueraiders.com) Giddy Potts

The Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic announced Wednesday the bracket for the 2017 edition of its holiday classic in which the Blue Raiders are participating this December.

Middle Tennessee will be competing in the opening game of the tournament on ESPNU with a 4:30 p.m. CT tip against Princeton in Honolulu on Dec. 22. The Blue Raiders will move on to face either Akron or USC in their second contest which will take place on Dec. 23. The final round games will take place on Christmas Day after an off day on Dec. 24.

The Blue Raiders and Tigers will be facing off for the first time in the history of the two programs when they meet in Hawaii. Princeton went 23-7 with a perfect 14-0 Ivy League record in 2016-17 before narrowly falling to Notre Dame, 60-58, in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

“Princeton had an outstanding 2016-17 season, almost upsetting Notre Dame in the first round of the NCAA Tournament,” Head Coach Kermit Davis said. “They have a strong nucleus coming back that will make them a favorite in a very good Ivy League.”

Princeton has a challenging non-conference slate already set before making it to Hawaii, including games against Butler, BYU, Miami, George Washington, Monmouth and USC.

Should the Blue Raiders face Akron in the second round, it will be the 28th time the former Ohio Valley Conference foes have met, with the Blue Raiders holding a 17-10 advantage in the series. Of the 27 total meetings, 17 came during the eight-year span that the programs crossed paths in the OVC from 1980 to 1987. The teams last met in 2014 while Davis holds a 3-1 record against the Zips.

USC on the other hand would be a first-time opponent for the Blue Raiders, who are 2-2 all-time against Pac-12 opponents.

Middle Tennessee’s Christmas Day opponent will come from the pool of Miami (FL), Davidson, New Mexico State and Hawaii. Of the four, New Mexico State is the only program Middle Tennessee has competed against in the past, trailing 3-5 in the all-time series against the Aggies.

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