How good is the eight-team field for next year’s Battle 4 Atlantis tournament on Paradise Island in the Bahamas? The “worst” team involved just beat another participant, and that team gave the defending national champion Louisville Cardinals their only loss to date. Thanks, transitive property. Now back to basketball.
The Battle 4 Atlantis tournament will run from November 26-28 next year — Thanksgiving is the 27th — and features four teams that are currently ranked: the No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers, No. 12 Florida Gators, No. 17 UCLA Bruins and No. 25 North Carolina Tar Heels. The other four teams currently have a combined record of 22-7, and all four of those teams could easily be ranked this season. The Oklahoma Sooners are 6-1, Georgetown Hoyas are 5-2, Butler Bulldogs are 5-2, and aforementioned “worst team” UAB Blazers are 6-2 and fresh off a home victory over North Carolina.
The Battle 4 Atlantis tournament has gathered some of college basketball’s old money and new money to create a group that boasts 15 Final Four berths since 2000 — spread between seven of the teams — and the eighth team, those pesky Blazers, has made four NCAA Tournaments since 2004, when they upset the No. 1 overall seed Kentucky Wildcats to make the Sweet Sixteen.
How good will these teams be next year, when the games are actually played? UAB will return its (current) top two scorers, but loses five seniors that play extended minutes. Butler is plugging along as usual and will show up in the Bahamas with five of its current top seven scorers. Georgetown will lose a lot of seniors, but should have leading scorer D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and big man Josh Smith back. Oklahoma will only lose two seniors from this season’s team — although one is leading scorer Cameron Clark — while North Carolina should return everyone other than James Michael McAdoo. UCLA looks poised to return everyone of note along with a magnificent recruiting class, and while Florida will lose several important pieces the Gators always recruit well and play at least top 15-caliber basketball under Billy Donovan. Wisconsin will lose sharpshooter Ben Brust, but that’s about it.
Overall, each team should be strong next season, and this field will be as strong or stronger than the 2014 Maui Invitational, which includes the Arizona Wildcats, Missouri Tigers, Purdue Boilermakers, Pittsburgh Panthers, BYU Cougars, San Diego State Aztecs, Kansas State Wildcats and Chaminade Silverswords.