Battle 4 Atlantis

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Wisconsin wins 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis with 69-56 win over Oklahoma

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Wisconsin, ranked No. 2 in the country, captured the 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis title, pulling away in the second half from Oklahoma en route to a 69-56 victory.

Two early fouls saddled Frank Kaminsky on the bench for the majority of the first half. The absence of their 7-foot All American didn’t stop the Badgers from heading into the locker room with a 34-33 halftime lead. With its starting five back on the floor to start the second, Wisconsin went on a 20-6 run to open up a double-digit lead. The Sooners would cut the lead to single digits, but never got it closer than nine.

Friday night’s Battle 4 Atlantis championship win shows just how difficult it is to beat an experienced, fundamentally-sound team like Wisconsin, which returns four starters from the Final Four team this season. Think about this for a second: Oklahoma is a trendy, darkhorse Final Four pick entering the season given the returners led by Buddy Hield and the addition of Houston transfer TaShawn Thomas. And, Wisconsin was without its star player for most of the first half, managed to keep the lead into halftime, and then quickly got out to a double-digit lead, which it almost held for the entire second half.

Foul trouble. Players struggling from the field. Those issues occurred during this three-game trip, and Wisconsin was able to respond with contributions from other players in Bo Ryan’s seven-man rotation. On Thursday, Wisconsin staved off Georgetown, 68-65, thanks in large part to the contributions of key reserves Bronson Koenig and Duje Dukan. With Kaminsky out with two fouls, Dukan against stepped up with 11 points in the first half with Traevon Jackson scoring seven points and dishing five assists.

Jackson led the ball movement with eight assists, tying a career high. Wisconsin assisted on 12 of 14 field goals in the first half and 19 of 27 for the game led by Jackson who tied a career-high with eight assists.

The unselfish passing led to another balanced scoring effort with five Badgers in double figures. Kaminsky scored 14 of his game-high 17 after halftime. That was followed by Jackson and Dukan with 13 points apiece, Sam Dekker with 11 and Nigel Hayes added 10.

Defensively, Wisconsin forced 21 turnovers, but more importantly limited Hield, the native of the Bahamas, to 2-of-11 shooting for nine points.

The Sooners have Missouri next Friday at home. Wisconsin’s non-conference schedule doesn’t get any easier after it left the loaded field unbeaten, as the Badges host No. 4 Duke and Jahlil Okafor in the marquee game of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday night at 9:30 p.m. EST.

2015 Battle 4 Atlantis field announced

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During the second half of the 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis championship game between No. 2 Wisconsin and Oklahoma, broadcasters Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas revealed the 2015 Battle 4 Atlantis field.

Syracuse, UConn, Michigan, Texas, Gonzaga, Washington, Texas A&M and Charlotte will be the eight teams in yet another star-studded event.

The 2015 Battle 4 Atlantis field provides several opportunities to revive rivalries that became casualties of conference realignment. Syracuse and UConn have not played since the 2012-2013 season and while Syracuse has lined up games against former Big East foes Villanova and St. John’s, nothing has been set between the Orange and Huskies. That is the same situation for Texas and Texas A&M, two schools that have not met on the hardwood since the Aggies left the Big 12 Conference for the SEC.

After a decade-long break, Gonzaga and Washington agreed to renew its rivalry with a four-year, home-and-home series, beginning in 2016, but next year’s event can give us a preview of those matchups.

Once again, it will be hard to find a more competitive field than this one in Paradise Island, Bahamas.

No. 8 Florida needs overtime to defeat Louisiana-Monroe, 61-56

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Until this week, No. 8 Florida hadn’t lost on its home floor in 33 games. Friday night, the Gators almost suffered a second home loss in five days, as Louisiana-Monroe led by a dozen in the first half and later stormed back in the last minute to tie the game and force overtime. However, it was in the extra frame where shorthanded Florida pulled away from a 61-56 victory.

Free throws from Michael Frazier II put Florida up 51-43 with two minutes left, looking like the Gators had avoided the upset bid from their Sun Belt opponent. Nick Coppola had different plan, scoring five of his 11 points in the final 90 seconds — assisting on a 3-point field goal in that span — to force overtime.

Jon Horford had the only Florida field goal in overtime, as the Gators closed out the game from the line.

This was the second time this week, Florida coughed up a late-game lead, only this time the Gators regrouped to pick up a win. On Monday, Miami guard Angel Rodriguez lead the charge, scoring 22 of his 24 points with under nine minutes to play, in a come-from-behind win for the Hurricanes. Blowing a lead to Miami, especially given the zone Rodriguez was in is one thing, but to ULM — even without two starters — is a concern for Florida moving forward.

Following the game, Billy Donovan told reporters in the post-game press conference, “This is the team we’re taking to the Bahamas,” which would mean the Gators are going to the toughest early-season tournament without Dorian Finney-Smith or Eli Carter, who missed Friday’s game with a foot injury. In order to survive that field, the undermanned Florida team will need more out of Kasey Hill, who is shooting 3-of-21 from the field over his last two games with 10 assists and seven turnovers. They’ll also need rely heavily on Chris Walker, who recorded four points and six boards in 25 minutes in his season debut on Friday.

It won’t get easier when Florida returns to campus, as the Gators kick off December with a road game against Kansas.

Florida will have plenty of time to get its full roster on the floor — Duke transfer Alex Murphy isn’t eligible until the second semester — and it’s a long season to sort out its issues, but this week could be the beginning of a tough stretch for Donovan and Co.

Wisconsin’s non-conference slate doesn’t lack for quality matchups

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With Ben Brust being the lone departure from a team that won 30 games and reached the Final Four last season, the Wisconsin Badgers are one of the teams expected to contend for a national title in 2014-15. Friday afternoon the school released the non-conference schedule for the upcoming season, and it’s safe to say that the Badgers will be tested once they begin Big Ten play when the calendar flips over to 2015.

Among the games in front of Wisconsin is a home game against Duke on December 3 as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, and that will be their first game following the Battle 4 Atlantis. Wisconsin begins that eight-team event, regarded by many as the premier in-season tournament of the 2014-15 season, with a game against UAB on November 26 and things will only get tougher from there.

Wisconsin will play either Florida or Georgetown on the 27th, with Butler, North Carolina, Oklahoma and UCLA being on the other side of the Battle 4 Atlantis Bracket. The Tar Heels, Sooners and Bruins are all expected to return to the NCAA tournament in 2014-15, and the same can be said of a Florida squad that was the tournament’s top overall seed last year.

Other non-conference games for Wisconsin include road games at Marquette and Cal, and they’ll have two tough home games against Green Bay (which took them to overtime last season) and Boise State.

“Every year it’s our goal to put together a difficult non-conference schedule that will get us ready for Big Ten play,” head coach Bo Ryan said in the release. “Last season we played five teams in the non-con that ended up winning their conference. I think this year’s slate will be another challenging one.”

Wisconsin will play twice within the span of five days in Milwaukee, with their game at Marquette (December 6) preceding a game at Milwaukee on December 10. While Green Bay won the Horizon League’s regular season title in 2013-14 it was Milwaukee that won the conference tournament, earning the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

With forwards Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky back the Badgers will be regarded as the favorite to win the Big Ten, and under Ryan the program has finished in the top four of the Big Ten standings every year that he’s been in charge (since 2001).

Is the Battle 4 Atlantis now the premier early season tournament?

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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.

Really.

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.

2014 Battle 4 Atlantis field is absolutely loaded

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The field for the 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis has been revealed, and it is absolutely stacked.

The eight teams: Florida, North Carolina, UCLA, Georgetown, Wisconsin, Butler, Oklahoma and UAB.

There is a rule in place that prohibits two teams from the same conference from being in these early season tournaments. Butler and Georgetown are both members of the Big East, but the Bulldogs are now in their third conference in three years and made the decision to take part in this tournament well before they were in the same league as Georgetown. We saw the same situation this year as Villanova and Xavier were both in the Battle 4 Atlantis. In the Wooden Legacy this year, both Creighton and Marquette were in the field.

Villanova beat Kansas and then knocked off Iowa in overtime in the final to win the 2013 tournament.