Loaded Battle 4 Atlantis field poses early season test for Gators
PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) -- North Carolina coach Roy Williams knows a trip to the Bahamas will not in any way resemble a Thanksgiving vacation for his Tar Heels.
He's not complaining.
And neither are plenty of other teams that are spending the next few days in paradise.
No. 2 Wisconsin (4-0), No. 5 North Carolina (3-0), No. 18 Florida (2-1) and No. 22 UCLA (4-0) headline the eight-team bracket at the Battle 4 Atlantis, which gets underway inside a ballroom-turned-temporary-arena on Wednesday and boasts arguably the most loaded field of any of the early season college basketball tournaments.
Butler (3-0), Oklahoma (2-1), Georgetown (3-0) and Alabama-Birmingham (2-2) are also in the field. Combined record of the eight teams: 23-4.
"It's a wonderful tournament," Williams said. "Looking at all the tournament fields, I think it's the best field of any of the preseason tournaments. It's a big-time challenge for us."
For everyone else, too.
"Now we are going to be thrown into the proverbial fire," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said.
That's exactly the selling point tournament organizers have made to schools, trying to lure them to the Atlantis for a few days of sun, fun, turkey -- and no easy games. Connecticut, Duke, Kansas, Louisville, Villanova and Iowa have all been part of the field in recent years, with Syracuse, UConn and Gonzaga among those scheduled to be there next year.
There could be plenty of other intrigue as well, such as the potential of a Butler-Georgetown game -- a non-conference matchup against Big East members. Or maybe a Georgetown-UCLA matchup, which would pit Hoyas center Joshua Smith against his former school.
Smith and the Hoyas open against Florida in the last of Wednesday's four quarterfinal matchups.
"He will probably be the biggest, most physical frontcourt player we'll play all year long," Florida coach Billy Donovan said of facing the 6-foot-10, 340-pound Smith. "I don't think there's anybody in college basketball like him, so he's certainly a handful and that will be a challenge for us."
Butler and North Carolina open things on Wednesday, a rematch of their meeting at the Maui Invitational two years ago.
"Getting ready to play, it's a different team and I've got a different team, but there's some guys that were around and they beat us by 88 points or something like that the last time we played them," Williams said. "And I remember that."
He's off on one key detail: Butler beat North Carolina 82-71 in that meeting, but the Tar Heels will surely be reminded that beach time isn't exactly as much fun after losses.
"We're 3-0 and we've done some good things," Williams said. "We know we've got to get a heck of a lot better."
The Badgers, who open against UAB, have only been ranked as high as No. 2 in one other season, the 2006-07 campaign in which they climbed briefly to No. 1.
Through four games, no opponent has scored more than 60 on Wisconsin, which is holding teams to 34 percent shooting.
"It's getting better every game," Wisconsin star Frank Kaminsky said of the team's defense. "We are learning things from previous games that we can take going forward and hopefully we keep building on it."
Wisconsin has gotten to 4-0 with defense; UCLA, which opens against Oklahoma, has gotten there with offense, scoring 95.3 points per game.
"They looked like the Harlem Globetrotters out there, just toying with us," Nicholls State coach J.P. Piper said after the Bruins dropped 107 points and 11 3-pointers on his team last week.
If nothing else, the three games everyone gets in the Bahamas this week will be a learning experience, Donovan said.
"Before December 1st, we're going to know a lot about our team," Donovan said.