The only thing hotter than the climate in the Bahamas this holiday weekend will be the college basketball matchups in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. Four of the eight entries are ranked in the Top 25–2nd-ranked Louisville, 5th-ranked Duke, 13th-ranked Missouri and 19th-ranked Memphis–but the remaining four are no slouches either. Stanford won the NIT Championship last season, VCU and Iowa are stalwarts of the mid-major conferences, and Minnesota received the most votes of any team that finished outside of the Top 25 in the most recent polls, so there is plenty of competition in this tournament.
The first matchup for Duke will be against Minnesota, and while it should be a doozy, Duke should be able to win for several reasons. First, they have already been battle-tested in their victory over then-third-ranked and defending national champion Kentucky, 75-68. Second, they followed that up with a an up-and-down game against the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (who??) where they spent the majority of the first 15 minutes playing from behind before reeling off a 30-0 run at one point to put the game out of reach, so they have already played through a let-down trap game. Third, Coach K knows how to prepare his teams for games like these; they will not take the Golden Gophers lightly and will be ready to go toe-to-toe with them. And finally, the Blue Devils have the talent to score at will, with four players on their roster–Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry, Rasheed Sulaimon and Ryan Kelly–all scoring in double figures.
The key for the Blue Devils though, as always, will be making their long-range shots. So far they are making 38% of their three-point shots and are averaging 24 a game. It will be crucial for Duke to make closer to 50% of their shots and be more selective in their shooting opportunities, because not only must Duke be more efficient in this aspect of their game, but they must be especially wary of a Golden Gophers squad that currently ranks 16th in the nation in rebounds per game, averaging almost 45, with nearly 30 of those rebounds being on the defensive side of the ball.
Duke will be ready for this matchup, and though Minnesota should be a great challenge for them, look for Duke to win by 11 points.