When Mike Wilton first envisioned a premier men's volleyball tournament a quarter of a century ago, the then-Hawaii coach saw it as a showcase previewing the eventual final four.
Many times during the past 23 years, it has come very close to being just that, including the second Outrigger Resorts Invitational, where three of the four teams that began the 1996 season at the Stan Sheriff Center were reunited five months later to end theirs at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion.
This week's 24th edition has the potential to have its four ranked participants again seeing each other in May, coincidentally at Pauley Pavilion. No. 2 Hawaii, No. 4 BYU, No. 8 Lewis and No. 11 Penn State represent four of the five conferences that will earn automatic berths into the national tournament.
Here's the scedule for the upcoming tounament, all in Eastern time:
|Date||Time||School vs. School|
|Thursday, March 8||9 p.m.||BYU vs. Penn Statae|
|Thursday, March 8||12 a.m.||Lewis vs. Hawaii|
|Friday March 9||9 p.m.||BYU vs. Lewis|
|Friday March 9||12 a.m.||Penn State vs. Hawaii|
|Satuday, March 10||9 p.m.||Lewis vs. Penn State|
|Satuday, March 10||12 a.m.||BYU vs. Hawaii|
>> TV: Spectrum Sports (UH matches only)
>> Radio: 1420-AM (UH matches only)
All four have a legitimate shot to win it all on May 5, just as all four have a shot at taking home the championship trophy on Saturday.
"It's hard to describe the feeling of playing in this," said Rainbow Warriors assistant coach Joshua Walker, who played in the event from 2008 to 2011 and was the MVP of the 2010 event. "It's always been a tough tournament.
"No one is ever favored to win it, this year in particular. Every team could be (in the top two) in their conference. Every team could be in the final four. The team that wins this will be in the conversation for the national championship."
The discussion will include how the outcome of this week affects a potential at-large bid into the NCAA should none of the four win their respective conference tournaments. Currently BYU is atop the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, while Hawaii (Big West) and Penn State (EIVA) are both tied for second in their conferences. Lewis is third in the MIVA.
"Nos. 2, 4 and 8 ... what a great weekend to measure where we are," Penn State coach Mark Pavlik said. "It's great to be back."
The 24th @OutriggerResort Invitational runs Thursday thru Saturday featuring the best field in years!— #WarriorBall (@HawaiiMensVB) March 6, 2018
Get your: https://t.co/WhaVJetwsM
It's the 21st appearance for the Nittany Lions, the first since 2015. Penn State won consecutive titles in 2008-09.
BYU claimed the championship in both of its previous appearances (2005 and '07).
Lewis was last here in 2016. The Flyers have never won the title in six tries.
Host Hawaii is 40-27 in the tournament with eight championships, including the past two years.
With the event's move from early January to March, "the whole volleyball world will be watching," Walker said. "We'll all get a chance to see what the postseason will look like."