The elderly man decked out in a black and gold Iowa sweat suit succinctly summed it up as we were boarding the plane to Nassau. “Weather back home is crappy, think we have a good shot at this and I’m curious how good the Wiggins kid is.”
It won’t be the tag line for the 3rd annual Battle 4 Atlantis, but it cuts to the heart of why this tournament has become a tradition for hoop fans in such a short period of time. Weather on the appropriately named Paradise Island is mid-80’s, perfect with the right amount of Caribbean breeze. And with only the exception of Southern California, fans of the other seven teams represented, don’t have to venture beyond two time zones to find beach time before games.
There is solid representation throughout the power conferences of Big East, Big 12,ACC, SEC, PAC 10 and Big 10 along with C-USA to gauge how good a team can be, by that all important month of March. And there is always the marquee teams and players to entice even fans from opposing teams to take a look.
Kansas is the star attraction this season, coach Bill Self has the young Jayhawks ranked in the top four with all the potential to make a long run as did at last year’s Battle 4 Atlantis finalists, Duke and Louisville.
“The Wiggins kid,” is 6’8″ freshman Andrew, who has been touted somewhere between sliced bread and a better mouse trap, along the lines of great inventions. A “do it all” player who is a lock to be a lottery pick in the NBA draft and quite possibly the first chosen. Maybe good enough to take KU to another title, at least that is the interest created.
Five teams are preseason picks to being playing in the NCAA tournament and there are other teams with compelling stories. The resurrected coaching talent Tim Floyd at Texas El Paso and the red-hot, “must have” coach, Andy Enfield after his Florida Gulf Coast surprise, trying to revive USC hoops.
The gentleman from Iowa gets an idea of how good his Hawkeyes, an NCAA early pick, are against Xavier, one of the new teams in the very new look Big East in the first round. UTEP takes on Tennessee, one of those projected NCAA tournament teams, in the other evening game.
The Battle begins Thanksgiving Day on AXS TV at 1p ET with Villanova, one of the Big East’s best, taking on USC followed by Kansas against Wake Forest.
A few teams will find their day in the sun. The fans already have.
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