UConn to play in Bahamas Thanksgiving weekend
National champion Connecticut will enjoy Thanksgiving in the Bahamas next season.
The Huskies are among the eight teams scheduled to compete in the Battle 4 Atlantis, a new early-season holiday tournament organizers hope will become the East Coast version of the Maui Invitational.
UConn will be joined by Harvard, Florida State, Utah, Massachusetts, Central Florida, College of Charleston and North Carolina-Asheville at the Nov. 23-27 tournament held inside a lavish ballroom.
''We are thrilled to host some of the leading teams in college basketball including the 2011 national champions,'' said George Markantonis, president and managing director of Kerzner International Bahamas, which spearheaded the tournament. ''This event is something our guests and college basketball fans around the nation will love. There simply isn't a better way to celebrate a Thanksgiving holiday.''
The Bahamas had a trial run of sorts with a doubleheader in December that featured Virginia Tech, Richmond, Georgia Tech and Mississippi State.
Tournament organizers wanted it to become an eight-team tournament but needed the Bahamas to gain exempt status from the NCAA. Without exempt status, teams playing in the tournament would be limited to 27 regular-season games instead of 30.
The NCAA's Division I Board of Directors approved the Bahamas' proposal without discussion in January, allowing it to join Canada and Mexico as the only countries with exempt status.
The tournament will limit participation to one team per conference each year and require teams to wait four years before returning. Games will be played on a temporary court inside an ornate ballroom that can hold up to 5,000 spectators and was the site of the 2009 Miss Universe Pageant.
Participating schools will receive $2 million annually, which organizers say makes it the richest preseason tournament in college basketball.