Happ, Badgers to be tested in Battle 4 Atlantis tournament
PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — Virginia coach Tony Bennett knows his fourth-ranked Cavaliers have plenty of veteran talent back from a team that won the Atlantic Coast Conference championship and reached No. 1 nationally last year.
Still, he’s quick to note his team is blending in new pieces, too — which is why he wants to see how this group handles playing in this week’s Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.
“I think you need to be in settings like this,” Bennett said Tuesday afternoon. “Every college team is getting into these tournaments where you test yourself. And not to disrespect anybody we’ve played up to this point, but I think at least at this point the competition will step up.
“You’re going to learn some things about yourself with the many different teams that are here. And every one of them is definitely a quality team.”
Virginia is the highest-ranked team in the field, which also includes No. 25 Wisconsin from the Big Ten. Three power-conference teams — Florida from the Southeastern Conference, Oklahoma from the Big 12 and Stanford from the Pac-12 — make up the rest of the field along with Butler (Big East), Dayton (Atlantic 10) and Middle Tennessee (Conference USA).
The tournament begins Wednesday and concludes Friday in Imperial Arena, a converted ballroom that seats about 3,500 at the Atlantis resort.
The Cavaliers (3-0) open play against Middle Tennessee in the three-games-in-three-days event.
“The first thing that comes to mind is the ACC Tournament and how you prepare for that,” junior Ty Jerome said.
The Badgers (3-0) returned to the AP Top 25 on Monday for the first time since the end of the 2016-17 season behind 6-foot-10 Ethan Happ, a preseason Associated Press All-American averaging 18.3 points, 12.0 rebounds and 7.7 assists.
Badgers coach Greg Gard said he wants to see how his Badgers “adjust on the fly” in a tournament setting.
“Good defensive teams will have the ability to make that adjustment on the floor quickly and help each other out,” Gard said. “That’s something I want to see this group continue to grow and mature with.”
Here are things to know about this week’s Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas:
Florida needs more from its offense entering Wednesday’s game against Oklahoma.
The Gators (2-1) are averaging 72.7 points and shooting 46 percent, though those totals are buoyed by double-digit wins against Charleston Southern and La Salle. Florida is also shooting just 26 percent (17 of 65) on 3-pointers, and managed just 60 points in a season-opening loss to No. 14 Florida State.
Asked if he expected a better offensive start, coach Mike White said: “I did, I did. It’s on me as much as anyone. We’re searching right now a little bit offensively for what type of stuff we can be running to help these guys.”
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It’s early yet, but Oklahoma (3-0) is off to a good start in replacing some of the production lost with the one-and-done NBA departure of Trae Young, who led the country in scoring and assists.
Senior guard Christian James is averaging a Big 12-best 22.7 points, an impressive total considering he didn’t score more than 23 points in his first 97 games as a Sooner. Then there’s sophomore forward Brady Manek, who is averaging a Big 12-best 11.3 rebounds.
“I like this group’s starting point,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said.
Stanford (2-1) is in the midst of a demanding opening month entering the first-round game against Wisconsin.
The Cardinal opened with a cross-country flight to play at UNC Wilmington and then at No. 7 North Carolina . Stanford returned home to face Wofford, but that game was canceled due to air-quality concerns from the California wildfires.
“As we compete and fight every day, we want to make sure we always keep everything in perspective so that we’re trying to represent ourselves and the university and the athletic department the right way,” Cardinal coach Jerod Haase said, “but also understand there’s a bigger picture that needs to be seen.”
Butler’s Kamar Baldwin, Dayton’s Josh Cunningham and Middle Tennessee’s Antonio Green offer some big scoring potential this week.
Baldwin, a 6-1 junior, is averaging 23.3 points and 5.7 assists for the Bulldogs (3-0) entering Wednesday’s first-round game against the Flyers (3-0). On the other side is Cunningham, a 6-8 redshirt junior and preseason all-conference pick who missed the first two games with a hand injury but had 20 points on 9-for-10 shooting in his season debut against Purdue Fort Wayne on Friday.
As for Green, the 6-2 junior transfer from Texas Rio Grande Valley is averaging 22.3 points for the Blue Raiders (3-1) entering Wednesday’s game against Virginia’s stingy defense.
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