BOWLING GREEN - The schedule got a little more exotic, and a little more tropical, for the Bowling Green State University men's basketball team when the Falcons accepted an invitation to play in the Rainbow Classic in Hawaii over the Christmas holiday.
The Falcons, who will return eight of their top nine scorers from last season's 13-16 team, including two veterans who missed most of last season with injuries, will visit the Pacific island state for the second time in five years. Bowling Green played in Hawaii at the start of the 1999-2000 season, in head coach Dan Dakich's third year at Bowling Green.
Bowling Green beat Jackson State and the host University of Hawaii team to win the Nextell Challenge championship in November of 1999. That BG team went on to a 22-8 overall record and won the MAC regular season championship.
“We're excited about the opportunity to go back there to play,'' Dakich said. “It was a good experience the last time, we had some success there, and let's face it - it's Hawaii - there are a lot of worse places you could visit.''
NCAA regulations allow schools to play in two “exempt'' tournaments every four years, such as the popular early-season events in Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico each season. Exempt tournaments give teams the opportunity to play more games than the NCAA mandated limit.
“I really like to play in this kind of thing as often as we can, and the reality is that you have to do it for recruiting purposes,'' Dakich said. “Kids want to play in different places, against different teams. I think they probably grow up thinking about playing in big games, and playing in far-off places.
Dakich also has taken the Bowling Green team to Alaska at the start of the 2001-02 season, and the Falcons upset Mississippi in overtime in their first game there, and defeated Delaware while losing to Washington in between those two wins at the Top of the World Classic.
The Falcons also toured Chile and played a number of games there in the summer following the 2000-01 season.
“I want kids to experience things as college basketball players - things they will remember for a long time,'' Dakich said. “Not everybody gets to travel to Hawaii, Alaska, or South America, but kids in our program have had the chance to do that. You get to see some teams we don't ordinarily play, and visit interesting places in these types of events, and I think that is part of the attraction for the kids, and for all of us.''
In order to work the Rainbow Classic into the schedule, Dakich had to move a game with Illinois-Chicago to the 2004-05 season. The Falcons were scheduled to play UIC at Anderson Arena this December, completing the home-and-home deal that was part of the ESPN Bracket Buster pairings that had BG playing the Flames in Chicago last season.
Last year's Rainbow Classic was won by host Hawaii in overtime against Butler. The field for this year's event (Dec. 27-30) will not be announced until some time next week, according to officials at the University of Hawaii.