Early season tournaments continue to emerge and increase from a competition standpoint. Non-conference schedules have gotten tougher and college basketball fans prepare for premier match-ups and upsets even in November.
Let’s take a look at five storyline to watch for in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
1. Is Louisville the Team to Beat?- The Battle 4 Atlantis is loaded and Paradise Island might feature the toughest early-season field in the non-conference schedule. However, Louisville and head coach Rick Pitino have a plethora have talent returning in 2012-13 and expectations of a national championship. Led by senior guard Peyton Siva, the Cardinals will have their work cut out for them in the Bahamas. Duke, Memphis, and Missouri will all be clawing at the chance to win this tournament, while teams like Stanford and Minnesota cannot be overlooked. VCU and Northern Iowa wrap up the remainder of the field, so looking ahead the question must be asked, is Louisville the field’s “team to beat?”
2. New-Look Missouri- The Tigers were a two-seed in last season’s NCAA Tournament, but Missouri was upset by 15th-seeded Norfolk State in the Round of 64. Michael Dixon and Phil Pressey return in the back court, while Laurence Bowers is back after missing all of last season. However, head coach Frank Haith will feature lineups with a number of newcomers including UConn transfer Alex Oriakhi. Earnest Ross is eligible from Auburn, Keion Bell comes to Mizzou by way of Pepperdine, and although Jabari Brown (Oregon) won’t be eligible in time for this tournament, he too will join the squad in December. Toss a nice freshman class into the mix and the Tigers have the makings of a new-look, yet dangerous squad in 2012-13.
3. Cinderella Sleepers- We’ve seen it in the past. VCU’s magical run to the Final Four. Northern Iowa’s shocking upset of top-seeded Kansas back in 2010. While those Cinderella moments came during the NCAA Tournament, this eight-team field could have the potential for one shocking upset, or maybe two for that matter. UNI is improved and can compete atop the Missouri Valley Conference in 2012-13, while VCU will once again be knocking on the door of the Top 25. Both mid-majors know this is an early opportunity to help boost their resumes for March and their chances at an at-large bid come tournament time.
4. Early-Season Redemption- Interestingly enough, this field features both Missouri and Duke, the two team’s that were upset in the Round of 64 last season. Both teams were two seeds last year and while Norfolk State got the best of Missouri, Lehigh pulled off a thrilling win of their own against the Blue Devils. The 2011-12 season is in the rear view mirrors of each squad, but the chance to begin the season on a high-note after disappointing exits, will be something to watch for. Both squads will have new looks in 2012-13, but each team will be looking for that 3-0 run through the bracket in Nassau.
5. NIT Championship Rematch?- Both Stanford and Minnesota have the potential to meet in this tournament’s field. Unfortunately, it will have to happen with a distinct pattern, either in the championship game or the 5th place contest. However, the Cardinal routed the Gophers last season, winning the NIT Championship in Madison Square Garden. Trevor Mbakwe is back for Minnesota, while Stanford continues to improve under head coach Johnny Dawkins. While their runs in the NIT last season were impressive, each squad has aspirations of making it to the Big Dance in 2012-13. This tournament certainly provides non-conference, resume-building opportunities.
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