No. 2 Kansas headlines Battle 4 Atlantis
Self expects the Jayhawks' depth will be tested in tourament
Kansas coach Bill Self was looking at a magazine a few days ago, and several teams captured his attention. Like Iowa, Villanova, Xavier and Tennessee, for example.
Their common thread: They're all expected to be NCAA tournament teams come March.
They're also all in the field at the Battle 4 Atlantis, which opens quarterfinal play at Paradise Island, Bahamas on Thursday. No. 2 Kansas and No. 23 Iowa are the two ranked clubs in the event, where eight teams will all be playing three games in three days.
"Yes, I am looking forward to it," Self said. "Teams don't become teams until they take a trip or do something together. We aren't a team yet. No team in America is a team, yet. Hopefully, this will be a time when we can grow together and go have some fun, but make it a business trip and go down there and play well."
Self knows the Jayhawks' depth will be tested, under conditions that will replicate the play-every-day feel of conference tournaments.
So, too, will be the presumed No. 1 pick in next year's NBA draft.
Andrew Wiggins is averaging 16.8 points on nearly 59 percent shooting, one of the many reasons why the Jayhawks have won all four of their games. Now the freshman will put his talent on display in the Bahamas, starting with Kansas' matchup against Wake Forest on Thursday afternoon.
And despite all the attention he's had, Wiggins is still sounding like his own worst critic.
"I need to run the floor hard every time I'm out there, from baseline to baseline," Wiggins said. "I need to look to push the ball more and be even more assertive than I already am. ... I can still be better."
That's probably not good news for the other teams in the field.
Five things to know about the Battle 4 Atlantis
HELLO AGAIN: Xavier and Tennessee might really know a lot about each other by the time this tournament is over. Xavier beat the Vols 67-63 on Nov. 12, then the teams shared a Boeing 737 charter flight to Paradise Island earlier this week. If they both win or both lose on Thursday, the teams would play again on Friday. And when the tournament's over, they'll share a charter back to the U.S. on Sunday.
HOT STARTERS: It's pretty clear that this tournament wants to lure loaded fields, and that seems to be the case. Combined, the eight teams in the Battle 4 Atlantis are a combined 33-4, with Xavier, Wake Forest, Villanova, No. 2 Kansas and No. 23 Iowa all unbeaten. USC (4-1) and Tennessee (3-1) have bounced back after falling in season-openers, and UTEP is 3-2 coming into this weekend.
HAWKEYE DEFENSE: Fran McCaffery enjoys some wide-open styles of play, but the way his Iowa team has opened playing defense this season is eye-opening. The Hawkeyes are allowing 54.6 points per game - 38 points less than they're averaging - and came into the week with the nation's stingiest field-goal defense at 31.2 percent. Teams have taken 122 3-pointers against Iowa, missing 102 of them.
LOW CEILING: Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski compared the setup at Atlantis to a movie set last season, and he's not far off. Games are getting played in a converted hotel ballroom, with a low ceiling, temporary bleachers and unusual lighting. "I don't think it'll have much of an effect on whether or not we shoot the ball in the hole or not," Self said. Some past visitors have raved about how Atlantis gets the place ready for basketball. The Miami Heat held training camp there this season, and were thrilled.
WEATHER WATCH: While much of the U.S. deals with snow, sleet, freezing rain and cold over the Thanksgiving holiday, they're also bracing for some unseasonably cool weather in the Bahamas on Thursday. Expected high on the first day of the tournament: 77, or about 5 degrees below normal. Yes, that's called "unseasonably cool" in that part of the world.