On Tuesday morning, the brackets for each of the early season tournament fields were announced.
And while most of the fields look like they can produce one or two really good-to-great matchups if things break the right way, the Battle 4 Atlantis will once again produce must-see games that could end up having an impact on the way seeding breaks down in the NCAA tournament.
Let’s start with the obvious: the talent that will be in Atlantis is unparalleled. Wisconsin might be the best team in the country not named Kentucky. North Carolina and Florida could both end up being preseason top ten teams. Oklahoma has the talent to be a top 15 team this season. UCLA might be the second best team in the Pac-12, and Georgetown is good enough to at least contend for a spot in the NCAA tournament this year.
Things will really kick up a notch in the semifinals — where, if chalk holds, Wisconsin will square off with Florida in a battle of two teams coming off of a Final Four berth while North Carolina will take on Oklahoma in a game that should be played in the 80s — but that would ignore some of the tasty first round matchups. UCLA-Oklahoma will be the best first round game in all of the early season events, while Florida-Georgetown and UNC-Butler will be quite entertaining in their own right.
This is the just the fourth season that the event has been in existence, but it is fair to wonder whether or not this has become the premier early season tournament. In 2011, the first season that it was held, the Battle 4 Atlantis featured preseason title favorite UConn as well as upstart Harvard and a Florida State team that earned a three-seed in the NCAA tournament. In 2012, the event had three preseason top five teams to headline what was one of the strongest tournament fields I can ever remember. Last season featured three teams that reached the top ten in Kansas, Villanova and Iowa as well as Xavier and Tennessee, who made the Sweet 16.
Nothing will match the hype that comes with playing the Champions Classic, and the Maui Invitational is always going to hold sentimental value given the locale, the popularity of the event and the way it’s structured — hosted by Chaminade is what amounts to a glorified high school gym.
But the Battle 4 Atlantis has been the better event since it’s inception.
Sindarius Thornwell will not play on Monday against Seton Hall, according to a report from ESPN. South Carolina will be playing the Pirates in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Thornwell was suspended indefinitely from the team last weekend. Frank Martin discussed the suspension on the radio on Thursday.
“He’s been with us at practice, he’ll travel with us, he’s excited about our team, his role on the team,” he said. “Sindarius is one of my favorite guys I’ve ever come across. He messed up and it is what it is. He’s like a son to me. He messed up and he’s owned up to his mess up.”
“Outside of that, I’m not going to get into anything else. He has my full support. Our job is to prepare our team to play, we don’t prepare individual players to play. It’s no different to someone rolling an ankle. We’re down because of a bad decision. We’ll be fine.”
Josh Hart put on a show on Saturday as the senior willed No. 1 Villanova to a 74-66 win over No. 23 Notre Dame.
The matchup of unbeatens in New Jersey was tight throughout, but Hart put together one of the best performances any player will have all season, finishing with a career-high 37 points, 11 rebounds and four assists as Hart looked completely unstoppable.
With most of Villanova’s roster struggling on the offensive end, Hart took it upon himself to take over the second half. The Wildcats (10-0) only shot 25 percent (4-for-16) from three-point range but Hart’s aggressiveness attacking the basket was the difference. Hart finished 10-for-14 from the field and went 14-for-14 from the free-throw line as he put together the signature performance that could eventually help land him Player of the Year honors.
Notre Dame (9-1) put together a strong first half to jump out to a 41-36 halftime lead but the Irish’s offense didn’t perform at the same level in the second half. The first half saw a tremendous effort from junior point guard Matt Farrell as he torched the Villanova defense for 12 points and six assists in the game’s opening half.
Villanova’s defense made halftime adjustments and did a much better job of defending ball screens and forcing turnovers as Farrell and Notre Dame’s offense was slowed down in the second half. Farrell finished with 18 points but he didn’t pick up any assists in the second half as he finished with six. Steve Vasturia also added 18 points for Notre Dame while Bonzie Colson chipped in 11 points.
This win was a good one for Villanova because they were able to beat a tough opponent when most of the roster wasn’t performing up to standard expectations. The Wildcats definitely don’t want to rely on Hart that much during most games but the Villanova defense deserves credit for performing better in the second half after looking very poor at times during the first. Eric Paschall also provided a really nice lift for Villanova off the bench as he went 4-for-4 from the field, finishing with eight points and giving good energy on the defensive end.
Free-throw shooting was also an important factor in this one as Villanova was 20-for-22 from the charity stripe. With their ability to close out games at the line while having perhaps college basketball’s best closer in Hart, Villanova is looking like the toughest defending national champion we’ve seen since the back-to-back Florida titles 10 years ago.
Carlton Bragg Jr.’s battery case took an interesting twist Saturday morning.
On Friday afternoon, a 19-year old woman was arrested at the same address that Bragg was arrested. She was charged with suspicion of battery at 4:42 p.m., after Bragg’s appearance in court, and it was filed under the same case number as Bragg’s. The Kansas City Star is reporting that the woman is Bragg’s girlfriend.
According to Douglas County Sheriff’s records, the woman is still in custody.
NBC Sports is not identifying the woman as she has not yet been charged with a crime.
Bragg was charged with battery, a misdemeanor, Friday afternoon after an early morning arrest. He was accused of striking his girlfriend and pushing her down stairs. He has been suspended indefinitely by Kansas head coach Bill Self and will not play in Saturday afternoon’s game at Phog Allen Fieldhouse against Nebraska.
Self commented on Bragg’s status during a pregame radio appearance on Saturday.
(H/t: Jesse Newell)
Oklahoma State added an important commitment from one of the best available Class of 2017 guards on Friday as Amauri Hardy pledged to the Cowboys.
The 6-foot-2 Hardy is regarded by some recruiting services as a top-100 player as he gives head coach Brad Underwood a key commitment for Oklahoma State. A quick scoring guard who plays with a lot of energy, Hardy had a solid summer with The Family as the Michigan native offers up some insurance for Oklahoma State at guard.
Since Phil Forte is exhausting his eligibility after this season and sophomore point guard Jawun Evans is having a monster year and could go pro, having Hardy’s commitment is a good backup plan. If Evans does return for his junior season, Hardy can provide valuable backup minutes while also being able to play a bit off the ball alongside Evans.
Hardy joins four-star guard Zach Dawson and three-star forward Latravian Glover in Oklahoma State’s Class of 2017 recruiting efforts.
Taylor University celebrated the 20th anniversary of its Silent Night Game on Friday night.
The Division III school in Upland, Indiana has one of the best traditions in college sports as Taylor has its fanbase stay completely silent until the team scores its 10th point of the game. Upon scoring the team’s 10th point, the Taylor students go ballistic as they storm the court and temporarily stop the game. Dressing up in all sorts of group costumes, the Taylor students bring out some of the best ideas you’ll see from any college fanbase in the country.
As for the game, Taylor jumped out to a 37-9 lead on Lincoln Christian University and never looked back as they won 99-68. The win moves Taylor’s record to 20-0 all-time in Silent Night games.
Jake Heggeland was the game’s high scorer with 18 points for Taylor while Evan Crowe broke the Taylor silence for the second consecutive year.