Brutal basketball beckons in beautiful Bahamas
PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP)
It's not often eight college basketball coaches from around the country can agree on something.
Usually conference loyalty or recruiting prospects or old ties manage to find their way into an answer. But on Wednesday all eight coaches polled about what their teams were about to face spoke in the same key.
When asked about the quality of the field for the Battle 4 Atlantis, there were five greats, one unbelievable, one strongest ever and an amazing. When asked about the site of the tournament the answers ranged from spectacular to best place on Earth.
See, these coaches can all get along.
That would be until Thursday when No. 13 Missouri meets Stanford; No. 5 Duke faces Minnesota; No.19 Memphis goes against Virginia Commonwealth and No. 2 Louisville meets Northern Iowa.
That's four ranked teams - half the field - and the others have all had some success in recent years.
They are not lying about the site, either. While the coaches and players have practices, film sessions and the like to take up their free hours, the friends, fans and family who have made the trip are more concerned with kissing dolphins, snorkeling and jet skiing.
These teams are facing different scenarios for the trip. The teams ranked in the top 10 are looking for three wins and verification of their lofty status as conference play gets closer.
The next group is made up of the other ranked teams and those close to it. They want to come out with no more than a loss so they can place themselves as teams trying to stay where they are and suddenly become sleeper favorites as the NCAA tournament nears. Then there are those who want to get better and return home with a different attitude as the season deepens.
VCU coach Shaka Smart has seen his school's basketball image change greatly since the Rams reached the Final Four in 2011.
''People know us a little bit more,'' he said of his school's national image since the great run. ''Still, we are one of the underdogs. We like that. That's our identity. That's what we're about.''
Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said he has talked to his players about this opportunity since the end of last season.
''There are only a few championships you can play for - this, your conference tournament and the end of the year,'' he said. ''I told the team this is a good opportunity to see where we are in this type of environment. You just keep preparing for the rest of the season.''
Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, who was Dawkins' coach in college, was clear about why his team is in the Bahamas.
''You'll be better after playing three games here,'' he said.
Krzyzewski has history on his side. The Blue Devils have won 20 consecutive regular-season tournament games dating to the championship game of the 2006 CBE Classic.
With all the positive vibes about the tournament, are there any negatives to playing in these three-games-in-three-days tournaments?
''Losing all three and seeing how you recover from that,'' Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said with a laugh. Louisville's Rick Pitino had the same smile when he said: ''Three losses.''
Krzyzewski was serious when he said: ''Somebody gets hurt.''
Almost every coach takes a trip like this to build brownie points at home. Wives, kids, a lot of relatives are all along for the ride with a destination like the Bahamas.
Still, there's always one coach different from the others.
''With me there is no gray area'' Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. ''My wife was like 1-6 on the road with us last season. Until she can start to turn that around she's barred from road trips.''
Not all coaches are the same.