–Kenny Rice

‘Tis the season when radio stations are playing Christmas music ad nauseam before anyone even carves the turkey, when Black Friday has become Deep Gray Thursday to get those extra hours of shopping in for consumers and businesses, and while key college football games are everywhere to determine the bowl set ups a month away.  There are college basketball games galore, made-for-TV doubleheaders, tournaments stretching coast to coast and beyond the Pacific Ocean. Touchdowns and dunks at the flip of your remote control.

Thanksgiving night in this tidal wave of sports, sports and more sports, rolls in the Battle For Atlantis Tournament in Nassau, Bahamas. It is the perfect storm of a hoops pairing amidst the pre-conference swirl of tourneys.

The reigning NCAA champion Connecticut Huskies will come in as the favorite to win it all. The marquee name secured, Atlantis brings in a mix of name programs, and programs not to be taken for granted when March rolls around for the tournament action that really counts.  It is the perfect set up, with all eight teams guaranteed three games in a paradise setting for their fans, an intense 72 hours for players and coaches, the kind of turnarounds they are all hoping for next spring. This tournament is a recruiting perk for the established participants like UConn, Florida State and Utah, a recruiting necessity for UNC-Asheville, Harvard, UCF, College of Charleston and Massachusetts.

“Our conference is solid, probably only getting one NCAA bid but you can help us get that one prized ticket young man. Oh by the way, we’ll be in the Bahamas for a week this season,” says most of the coaches. “We are well-known, play a great schedule, great conference that locks up a bunch of post season bids, but we like to mix in something for you young man, we’re spending a week in the Bahamas,” says the major conference coaches.

Now that win-win scenario can sound rather lame after one gets past the everybody gets a trophy of pee-wee sports play, but tournaments such as the Battle For Atlantis is just that, a no losers deal. Better than what fans can find in the casino of the spectacular resort hosting the event. Even a team going 0-for-3 gets a tournament pressure trial; a chance to bond with teammates, some pre-conference tests to prepare for the grind in January on.

Atlantis has the right blend of the stars like Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun of UConn, veterans Bobby Cremins of College of Charleston and Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton to go along with one of the hot young coaches around Tommy Amaker of Harvard. All American Jeremy Lamb and super freshman Andre Drummond from UConn as well as players you might not know but will as the season unfolds, Josh Watkins of Utah, Harvard’s Keith Wright, Matt Dickey and J.P. Primm from UNC-Asheville. And players of famous people, who are making their own name, UCF’s Marcus Jordan (Michael’s son) and UNC-Asheville’s Keith Hornsby (musician Bruce’s son).

UConn can repeat as national champs, UNC-Asheville, Harvard, Florida State are expected to be in the Big Dance come March. College of Charleston and UCF might as well. UMass and Utah will find out much more about themselves and their future in Nassau. It’s an early peek at that tournament bracket you’ll be filling out in a few months. Never underestimate the appeal of a tropical tourney in recruiting and especially in ratcheting up a cure for the fall blues of boosters and alumni. When big time programs and up-and-comers collide it is always interesting. Atlantis is the perfect setting, perfect mix for it all. HDNet will televise live six games from Thanksgiving night through Saturday with tip-offs at 7 and 9:30 ET. First up UConn-UNC-Asheville followed by Utah-Harvard. A perfect night of left over dining and watching hoops.

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