The 5th Annual Battle 4 Atlantis takes place November 23-25 in Paradise Islands, Bahamas. In the first four years of the 8-team tournament players such as Uconn’s Kemba Walker, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker, Kansas’ Ben McLemore, and Louisville’s Russ Smith have helped raise the prestige of the annual tournament and is now recognized as one of the main preseason tournaments in college basketball.
The teams participating in this year’s Battle 4 Atlantis are: Baylor, Louisville, LSU, Michigan State, Old Dominion, St. John’s, VCU, and Wichita State.
Games will be split between the ESPN networks and AXS’s TV. ESPN will be broadcasting the first two games of the first round and winners’ bracket games while AXS will be providing two of the first round games and consolation bracket games.
*Note that the game numbers do not go along with game times/bracket.
First Round Matchups (11/23)
Wichita State vs. LSU- 12:00 PM EST- ESPN2
In the first year of the post Fred Vanvleet, Ron Baker era, Greg Marshall has his new look team at 4-0 to start the season. The Shockers are very balanced on the offensive end with six players averaging 8 to 12 points per game. Leading the charge is 6-6 junior forward Zach Brown who is averaging 11.5 points per contest and is 6-12 from 3 (50%) in their first four games.
With Ben Simmons getting all the attention last year for LSU and leaving early for the NBA, the Tigers still return 6-4 sophomore guard Antonio Blakeney. The former ESPN100 recruit is averaging 18.7 points per game this year and dropped 26 against Southern Mississippi on November 15th. Another player to watch for LSU is junior forward Duop Reaths (16.3 ppg) who has established himself as a secondary scorer for this team.
This game is a very intriguing one to start out the tournament. Both teams like to score in bunches with Wichita State averaging 93 and LSU putting up 82 as a team. Don’t be surprised if one of these teams reaches double digits. Wichita State’s balanced offense and bench depth will be too much for this LSU team.
Prediction: Wichita State 95 LSU 88
Baylor vs. VCU- 2:30 EST- ESPN2
Early in the season, the Baylor Bears have picked up some quality wins by beating Oregon at home by 17, and came out with the win against a Florida Gulf Coast team by nine that lost to Michigan State in East Lansing by one. The Bears have been led by Miami (FL) transfer Manu Lectome. The 5-11 junior guard from Belgium is averaging 16.7 points and 7.0 assists per game and has established himself as the go-to-guy for this team. While Lectome is the leader of the backcourt, the heart and soul of this team is forward Johnathan Motley. Averaging 14 points and 7 rebounds a game, Motley is considered this team’s glue guy and brings energy to this team on the defensive end with his athleticism and shot blocking ability.
In Will Wade’s second year with VCU, he has his team at 3-0 with their first real competition coming up against Baylor. While VCU has six players averaging seven or more points a game, the one who stands out from the rest is senior guard JeQuan Lewis. While he may not be the leading scorer for this team, Lewis is the most efficient and considered to be the most important player on this team while being able to run the point and shooting guard positions. Forwards Mo-Alie Cox and Justin Tillman are also players to keep in eye on as they are the leaders for this team and are just waiting to break out as upperclassmen.
The problem with Baylor in the past couple seasons has been consistency. It’ll be interesting to see how Baylor carries over that big win against Oregon and if they can knock off a very solid VCU squad. In the end, I think Baylor’s length down low with Motley and Lectome running the point will be too much for VCU. This VCU team is good but I think the Bears have too much scoring firepower which they have lacked in the past couple years.
Prediction: Baylor 72 VCU 63
Michigan State vs. St. John’s- 7:00 PM EST- AXS TV
After playing nationally ranked Arizona and Kentucky in back-to-back games to start off the year, the Spartans played a cupcake against Mississippi Valley State and barely got past Florida Gulf Coast at home on a controversial call at the end of the game. The question mark for Michigan State has been whether or not Miles Bridges will be able to get some help from his teammates on the offensive end. Eron Harris answered the bell on Sunday with a 31 point explosion against Florida Gulf Coast after only putting up 2 and 7 against Kentucky and Arizona. If Coach Izzo can get his freshman to help out the tandem of Bridges and Harris, this Michigan State team will be very dangerous.
St. John’s may be a team that could surprise some people this season. It all starts with freshman redshirt and youtube sensation Marcus Lovett who is putting up 24.3 points per game to go along with 5.3 assists. Joining Lovett in the backcourt is sophomore guard Frederico Mussini from Italy. Mussini averaged 10 points last year for the Red Storm and dropped 20 in their first game of the season but has struggled since then scoring five in their second game and zero in their most recent game against Minnesota. Also at the guard position is 6-1 freshman Shamorie Ponds. Ponds is a quick witty guard who can beat you off the dribble or hit a three in your face. The 6-1 guard also has the ability to go inside and grab a rebound against bigger opponents.
This game will be no cake walk for Sparty. I expect St. John’s to be hyped up for this game and make MSU walk on a thin rope throughout the game. In the end, I think the 1-2 punch of Harris and Bridges will be too much for the Red Storm.
Prediction: Michigan State 75 St. John’s 64
Old Dominion vs. Louisville- 9:30 EST- AXS TV
The Monarchs of Old Dominion are off to a 2-0 start after beating James Madison and a very solid Richmond team by three last week. The key for ODU will be the leadership of two upperclassmen. Senior guard Jordan Baker and junior forward Brandan Stith are the leading scorers on this team, averaging 15.0 and 14.5 points per game respectively. The only chance ODU will have in this game is if these guys can get going and they’ll have to force the Cardinals to shoot from the outside.
After being unable to clinch a berth to the NCAA Tournament last year due to a self-imposed ban, Rick Pitino has one of his most talented teams at Louisville this year. Forwards Jaylen Johnson and Deng Adel are two of the most versatile wings in the country that can score and battle inside for rebounds. The duo of point guard Quentin Snider and all around talented shooting guard Donovan Mitchell is another thing to this season as Louisville hopes to get back to the NCAA Tournament after last year was cut short.
Like I said earlier, ODU has to play almost a near perfect game to beat the Cards. Louisville is just too talented all around and can easily win this game on talent alone and I think they’ll do just that.
Prediction: Louisville 87 ODU 65
Louisville vs. Michigan State
11/25 3:30 PM EST- ESPN
Two of the top programs in college basketball will go head-to-head on championship friday of this great tournament. The inconsistency and youth of this Michigan State team will show against Louisville as they will try to speed up this younger Sparty team. The matchup of Harris and Mitchell will be one to watch in this one but I think Mitchell will get the upper hand and lead his team to victory.
Prediction: Louisville 73 Michigan State 68
2. Michigan State
4. Wichita State
7. St. John’s
8. Old Dominion
All Tournament Team
G Manu Lectome, Baylor
G Donovan Mitchell, Louisville
F Eron Harris, Michigan State
F Johnathan Motley, Baylor
F Deng Adel, Louisville
The Batlle 4 Atlantis will be another great one this year. The tournament has established itself as one of the premier early season tournaments in college basketball. This year will be no exception and I hope you all enjoy the holidays along side some college basketball!