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2015 Battle 4 Atlantis: Primer And Bracket

As the college basketball offseason—and summer—drags on, scheduling news provides fans with a little taste of what's to come between November and March. In this series, Blogging the Bracket's Chris Dobbertean examines this season's exempt tournaments, providing facts that will probably only be interesting to him. For the fields that will announce their brackets in August, Chris will provide his own suggested bracket for the purposes of later mocking. For most of the last 30 or so years, the Maui Invitational has been the pinnacle of holiday tournaments. But over the last five, a maverick event based on a chain of islands in the Atlantic has risen to challenge the pride of the Aloha State.

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To catch up on all of the posts in this series, visit the 2015-16 Early Season Events hub.

What is it?

The Battle 4 Atlantis (official website)

Where is it?

After playing an on-campus game against one of four mid-majors who will go on to participate in a two-round tournament, the eight teams in this event's main bracket will gather at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, just offshore from the Bahamian capital, Nassau.

This is the tournament played in the hotel ballroom that looks like it's lit for an EDM festival.

When is it?

The heart of the Thanksgiving holidays: Wednesday, November 25th through Friday, November 27th. The dates for the subregional and most of the on-campus games have not yet been set.

When did this event begin?

The Battle 4 Atlantis just completed its first four-year cycle, as it began in 2011. That means the 2015 edition features a repeat entrant for the first time. That team is Connecticut, who was favored to win that inaugural edition, which featured a shock final result—Harvard over UCF. The Huskies finished third, defeating Florida State in a consolation game that most figured would be the final.

Will it be on TV?

Coverage will be split between the ESPN networks and AXStv, which used to be known as HDNet. Last season, an ESPN outlet carried half of the quarterfinals (ESPN2), the semifinals, third-place game, and championship (ESPN). AXStv, meanwhile, carried the other two quarterfinals, and the fifth through eighth-place bracket. All of their games aired in the evening and were not streamed on ESPN3. That was not fun for a fan of a team that ended up playing a trio of night games while dealing with a cable system that didn't offer the channel.

Jog my memory. Who won in 2014?

The Wisconsin Badgers dominated the Oklahoma Sooners in a 69-56 contest.

Who is participating in 2015?

These are the eight teams bound for the Bahamas.

Charlotte 49ers (C-USA)

Connecticut Huskies (American)
Gonzaga Bulldogs (WCC) 

Michigan Wolverines (Big Ten)
Syracuse Orange (ACC)
Texas Longhorns (Big 12)

Texas A&M Aggies (SEC)
Washington Huskies (Pac-12)

This is going to be a fun field to bracket, as the potential exists for not just a slew of marquee matchups, but also for a trio of dormant, yet heated rivalries to be renewed-UConn-Syracuse, Texas-Texas A&M, and Gonzaga-Washington (though the Evergreen State rivals will begin a new series in 2016).

Three of the four "mainland" teams are set. The Elon Phoenix (CAA) are to host a subregional that also includes the Furman Paladins (SoCon), Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders (Southland), and one other squad, presumably from the West, since someone has to visit Gonzaga and Washington.

Note that Conference USA is the event's sponsor and sends a team each season. It's Charlotte's turn this time around.

Have any of these teams played in this event before?

UConn is the only one of the eight participants from 2011 to return at its first opportunity. That season's champion, Harvard had a standing invitation to come back, but elected to go to Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic instead.

Have any of these teams met in other recent exempt tournaments?

Shared arenas? Yes. Met? Only on occasion.

Last season, Connecticut and Texas A&M missed each other in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, while Syracuse and Texas met the same fate in the 2K Classic in New York. In 2013, Charlotte stunned Michigan in the Puerto Rico event's final, though the Wolverines ended up having a far better season than the 49ers. Elsewhere that season, Syracuse and Gonzaga was the projected Maui final, but the Bulldogs fell to Dayton on day one in Lahaina, and UConn and Washington didn't meet in that season's 2K Classic, an event won by the team that eventually cut the nets down at JerryWorld. A similar thing happened when both participated in the 2010 Maui Invitational, the first of three tournament titles Jim Calhoun's Huskies would claim in the 2010-11 campaign.

Elon was not the team assigned to play at Texas in 2012's Maui on the Mainland games. Syracuse and Michigan did meet in the 2010 Legends Classic final in Atlantic City, a game won by the Orange. A year earlier, Charlotte defeated Elon in the Durham regional semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off.

In 2008, Syracuse missed Washington in the CBE Classic in Kansas City, but the Orange defeated the Huskies in the 2007 NIT consolation game. Lorenzo Romar's team fell to Texas A&M in that event's semifinals. Gonzaga and Michigan did not play in the 2007 Great Alaska Shootout, back when that event was able to attract multiple power conference teams in a season.

So, what would your ideal bracket look like?

This field offers almost limitless possibilities for bracketing with two exceptions, Texas will almost assuredly be on the opposite side of the bracket from Connecticut and Washington, thanks to a pair of games that are already scheduled. Otherwise, it's a question of how early the organizers want to burn the possibility of rivalry games.

While a quarterfinal round featuring a trio of rivalry matchups and Charlotte-Michigan would be intriguing, expect those matchups to get pushed to Thursday and Friday. That would result in a bracket that looks something like this:

Texas-Michigan
Gonzaga-Texas A&M

Syracuse-Washington
Connecticut-Charlotte

The possibilities of Syracuse-UConn and Texas-A&M on day two and Gonzaga-Washington on day three are rather mouthwatering. But, again, there are so many directions for this bracket to go. Just about anything released will feature a fun slate for three days.

Since the fourth team for the subregional is unknown, I won't create a projection for that bracket.

I'll revisit this projection after the real pairings are released in August (or leaked earlier).

So, what does the actual bracket look like?

(Update 08/09/2015) There are guaranteed rivalries at the top and a potential one on day two in the bottom half.

Gonzaga-Washington
Texas-Texas A&M
Michigan-Connecticut
Charlotte-Syracuse

Here's a PDF version.

So, the Aggies-Longhorns rivalry is guaranteed to be renewed this season, while the Huskies and Bulldogs will become reacquainted with one another a season earlier than planned. The other Huskies in the field might meet their former Big East rivals from Central New York on the second day (or night), while a rematch of the 2013 Puerto Rico Tip-Off final would also result if the Orange and UConn meet.

Curiously, Washington and Texas could meet twice in a two-week span in two different countries in two different hemispheres! The pair are scheduled to meet in Shanghai on November 14th (November 13th in the U.S.).

I don't think this will happen in my early forecast, but I do see the Longhorns meeting UConn in advance of their scheduled meeting.

Quarterfinals
Gonzaga over Washington
Texas over Texas A&M
Connecticut over Michigan
Syracuse over Charlotte

Consolation Semifinals
Texas A&M over Washington
Michigan over Charlotte

Semifinals
Gonzaga over Texas
Syracuse over Connecticut

Finals
7th/8th Place: Washington over Charlotte
5th/6th Place: Texas A&M over Michigan
3rd/4th Place: Texas over Connecticut
Championship: Gonzaga over Syracuse

(end update)

Tomorrow, I'll take a look at an event that's hit hard times in recent seasons.

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