To catch up on all of the posts in this series visit the 2017-18 Early Season Events Hub.
What Is It?
How Long Has This Event Been Around?
This will be the seventh edition of this tournament, as it launched in November 2011.
When And Where Is It?
Play is again scheduled for the psychedelic ballroom environment established at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island, Bahamas each November. The quarterfinals are set for Wednesday, November 22nd; the semifinals for Thanksgiving Day, November 23rd; and the finals for Friday, November 24th.
As usual each of eight main bracket teams will host one of four Mainland visitors before heading to the Bahamas. Those four mid-majors will then play out their own two-round bracket on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday in Catonsville, Maryland, the home of the UMBC Retrievers.
For once, the teams that meet in the afternoon doubleheader will play in one semifinal, while those that play in the evening doubleheader will meet in the other. The cross-scheduling thing done in previous years was just a wee bit annoying and confusing.
Even though this is a quality field, each quarterfinal has a very clear favorite.
- Purdue Boilermakers (Big Ten) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (SEC)
- Villanova Wildcats (Big East) vs. WKU Hilltoppers (C-USA)
- N.C. State Wolfpack (ACC) vs. Arizona Wildcats (Pac-12)
- SMU Mustangs (American) vs. UNI Panthers (MVC)
Conference USA sponsors this event, so WKU—entering Rick Stansbury’s second campaign after an offseason full of controversy—fills its permitted automatic place in the field.
Are There Any Non-Bracketed Games?
Earlier this offseason, Arizona head coach Sean Miller expressed his dissatisfaction with the Wildcats’ 2016-17 early season event, the Las Vegas Invitational, which saw the Cats get two home games against the Northern Colorado Bears (287th in last season’s RPI per WarrenNolan.com) and Sacred Heart Pioneers (299th), before traveling to Sin City for games against power-conference foes.
With four games permitted in an exempt event and three scheduled in the Bahamas, the eight quarterfinalists only play one on-campus game in the Battle 4 Atlantis. But that doesn’t mean the quality of the teams improves. The four subregional teams, their placing in my own KenPom-derived preseason quality rankings, and their two main bracket teams follow:
- Chicago State Cougars (WAC); 342nd (of 351); at Purdue and UNI
- Nicholls Colonels (Southland); 329th; at Villanova and WKU
- Presbyterian Blue Hose (Big South); 349th; at Tennessee and N.C. State
- UMBC Retrievers (America East); 307th; at SMU and Arizona
At least they assigned the best team to play in Tucson.
In the Mainland semifinals, Nicholls State will take on Presbyterian, while Chicago State will face host UMBC.
Did Any Of These Teams Reach The 2017 Postseason?
The four teams that will be favored on November 22nd all qualified for the NCAAs—Purdue (a Sweet Sixteen loser against the Kansas Jayhawks), Villanova (unable to defend its 2016 crown after being stunned by the Wisconsin Badgers in the Second Round), Arizona (eliminated by Sean Miller’s former employer, the Xavier Musketeers, in the Sweet Sixteen), and SMU (edged by the USC Trojans in the First Round). The other four squads finished at .500 (Tennessee) or below.
Despite UMBC’s poor ranking in the four-year metric, the Retrievers did win 21 games last season, thanks to their run to the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament semifinals, where they lost to the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders.
How Strong Is This Event?
Based on the average four-year rankings of the participants, the 2017 Battle 4 Atlantis ranks as follows when compared to other bracketed tournaments.
- Main Bracket: 1st of 14 eight-team bracketed tournaments; 3rd of 38 bracketed tournaments
- Mainland Bracket: 24th of 24 four-team bracketed tournaments; 38th of 38 bracketed tournaments
Neither of these rankings should really be much of a surprise.
Have Any Of These Teams Played In This Event Before?
Louisville defeated UNI in the 2012 Battle 4 Atlantis quarterfinals—the first of three straight losses for the Panthers, while the Cardinals lost the championship game to future ACC rival Duke. One season later, Villanova won the title, while Tennessee finished with a 2-1 record and in fifth place.
Are There Any Other Notable Recent Meetings Between These Teams?
For starters, the season before Villanova claimed its most recent National Championship, it suffered a Round of 32 loss—as a top seed—at the hands of North Carolina State in Pittsburgh. In 2009, Purdue’s run to the Sweet Sixteen began with a 61-56 win over UNI.
The Boilermakers met Tennessee in the 2009 Paradise Jam final—coming away with a narrow 73-72 victory. UNI also participated in that event, but missed both the Boilers and Vols, thanks to a shocking quarterfinal loss to the DePaul Blue Demons. Similarly, Tennessee and N.C. State didn’t cross paths at the 2012 Puerto Rico Tip-Off. It was the same story for Arizona and Purdue in 2014’s Maui Invitational.
Villanova’s gotten the better of Purdue in two recent November meetings—the 2012 2K Classic semifinals and last season’s highly-anticipated Gavitt Game in West Lafayette. Tennessee, on the flip side, claimed the 2010 NIT Season Tip-Off crown with a shocking 78-68 win over the Wildcats.
Arizona took two in a row from N.C. State in December 2009 and 2010, while Purdue topped the Wolfpack in the 2014 ACC/Big Ten Challenge in West Lafayette. On the other hand, State swept a two-year series with Tennessee that ended in December 2014.
Who Won 2016’s Edition?
The Baylor Bears topped the Louisville Cardinals by a 66-63 score in last season’s thrilling title game. The FGCU Eagles went 2-0 in the round-robin subregional they hosted to claim the Mainland crown.
Did Any 2016 Teams Reach The Postseason?
The four semifinalists—Baylor (Sweet Sixteen), Louisville, Michigan State, and Wichita State (all Second Round)—and fifth-place finisher VCU (First Round) qualified for the NCAAs. So did FGCU, which also lost in round one. None of the remaining three main bracket or two Mainland teams played beyond their respective league tournaments.
Will This Event Be On TV?
As is now typical, ESPN will carry the daytime games, including Thursday’s semifinals and Friday’s third-place and championship games. However, the evening sessions will no longer appear on AXS TV. Instead, ESPN3 will carry Wednesday evening’s quarterfinal doubleheader and the entirety of the consolation round.
On-campus game coverage will naturally depend on the home team’s conference media rights.
Who’s Your Pick To Win It?
Arizona will be the pick of many to cut down the nets in San Antonio, so they’ll be the favorite here with Villanova close behind. Purdue could surprise given its silver medal showing in the Universiade in Taiwan this summer.
Purdue over Tennessee
Villanova over WKU
Arizona over N.C. State
SMU over UNI
Villanova over Purdue
Arizona over SMU
(consolation) Tennessee over WKU
(consolation) UNI over N.C. State
Championship: Arizona over Villanova
3rd/4th: Purdue over SMU
5th/6th: Tennessee over UNI
7th/8th: N.C. State over WKU
As for the Mainland bracket, look for UMBC to dominate at home and take out Chicago State and Nicholls State en route to the title.