Skip to main content

2014 Battle 4 Atlantis: Preview and Predictions

Marcus Paige

Marcus Paige

The early season basketball tournaments have in some ways become bowl season.

There are the — let’s say — lower profile events with obscure teams and sparse crowds.

The Battle 4 Atlantis, though, has risen to the Orange Bowl or Fiesta Bowl of the non-conference basketball season.

Louisville, Duke and Memphis played here two years ago, Kansas, Villanova and Iowa a year ago.

This season’s even includes four teams ranked in this week’s Associated Press top 25 — No. 2 Wisconsin, No. 5 North Carolina, No. 18 Florida and No. 22 UCLA — plus Big East power Georgetown and Big 12 contender Oklahoma.

Those top five teams can solidify their bona fides while the other teams in the field can start to make moves into the national picture.

Wednesday’s First Round Games
All times Eastern
Butler vs. North Carolina (noon, ESPN2)
UCLA vs. Oklahoma (2:30 p.m., ESPN2)
Wisconsin vs. UAB (7 p.m., AXStv)
Florida vs. Georgetown (9:30 p.m., AXStv)

Championship Game: Friday, 4:30 p.m., ESPN

Best potential game: Wisconsin vs. North Carolina in the final
The Badgers and Tar Heels opened the season in the Athlon top 10 and have done nothing to damage those projections through the first weeks of the season. The game could feature a handful of All-America candidates, including Marcus Paige, Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker.

Player to watch: Marcus Paige, North Carolina
Paige isn’t off to a blistering start (12 points per game), but North Carolina has hardly needed him to be an All-American in the first three games of the season. That changes as North Carolina advances through Atlantis. The second round brings a matchup against Oklahoma or UCLA and then probably Wisconsin, Florida or Georgetown.

Freshman to watch: Kevon Looney, UCLA
Atlantis features a handful of veteran teams or at least team’s that aren’t expecting freshmen to be the primary contributors. One of the exceptions is UCLA with five-star prospect Kevon Looney, who is averaging 14.8 points and 12 rebounds per game.

Breakout player: Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin
Wisconsin lost one major contributor to last year’s team in Ben Brust. Filling the spot is sophomore forward Nigel Hayes, an outstanding athlete who is averaging nearly a double-double per game.


Storylines to watch


Wisconsin’s progress
The Badgers are playing like a team that returns nearly every player from a Final Four squad. In fact, they’re playing better than last year’s squad. Frank Kaminsky is playing better than he did a year ago, raising his shooting percentage by more than 10 points while taking more shots from the outside. Sam Dekker is also a more efficient player than he was last season, and Nigel Hayes is amid a breakout campaign.

North Carolina’s post presence
The Tar Heels may have a breakout frontcourt this season with the performance of sophomore Kennedy Meeks, junior Brice Johnson and freshman Justin Jackson. Together, they’ve averaged 44 points per game through the first three.

Florida, Oklahoma try to bounce back
Florida and Oklahoma both had hopes of challenging Kentucky and Kansas in their respective conferences, but neither team looks anything like a conference contender. Florida lost at home to Miami and needed overtime to beat ULM. Oklahoma led Creighton by 18 in the second half only to lose 65-63 to a team rebuilding with Bluejays. Avoiding the losers’ bracket would be signs of progress.

Where does UCLA stand?
Arizona is the prohibitive favorite in the Pac-12. UCLA would have trouble challenging the Wildcats even in a best-case scenario this season, but the Bruins still have a shot to be No. 2 in the conference. Matchups against Oklahoma and potentially North Carolina, both contenders in their respective conferences, will be a good gauge of UCLA’s ceiling right now.

Butler’s coaching situation
Brandon Miller remains on medical leave due to an undisclosed issue, and the prospects of his return don’t appear optimistic. Under federal law, Miller can take 12 weeks of leave, but that will expire near the end of December. For now, Chris Holtmann is leading the program in place of the coach hired to replace Brad Stevens two years ago.

Battle 4 Atlantis Staff Predictions

 

David Fox

Braden Gall

Mitch Light

Prediction

Wisconsin over North Carolina

North Carolina over Wisconsin

Wisconsin over UCLA

Player to Watch

Buddy Hield, Oklahoma

Kennedy Meeks, North Carolina

Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles