Basketball fans have another thing to be thankful for on Thanksgiving Day: The second round of one of the most exciting basketball tournaments of the early season—The Battle 4 Atlantis.Atlantis’ Imperial Arena has been transformed from a ballroom to, well, a different type of “ball” room—a $500,000 temporary stadium with state-of-the-art regulation facilities. Fans will flock to the popular vacation spot to watch No. 24 Michigan State, St. John’s, No. 20 Baylor, VCU, Wichita State, LSU, Old Dominion and No. 10 Louisville battle for the tournament title, which, for the past two years, has predicted one of the Final Four teams in March.
The 12-game tournament begins on Wednesday, Nov. 23 when Wichita State takes on LSU at noon.
And, anything can happen here. Last year, Syracuse walked into the tournament unranked, but the team walked away with the title and later made its way into the Final Four. Here, fans can find out what teams are most competitive, and surprises, upsets and shocking plays will likely occur throughout play.
But, in the interest of what to expect from the tournament, here are some previews for first round games in the Battle 4 Atlantis:
Wichita State vs. LSU
Nov. 23 at Noon ET
The Shockers step onto the hardwoods undefeated so far in the season, outscoring opponents by an average of about 35 points. However, this could be their biggest test yet, for LSU also remains undefeated. This will be the sixth time the two teams face each other. WSU leads the series, 4-1, currently. But, LSU likely will not give up another win easily in this matchup.
After consecutive 20-point games, sophomore guard Antonio Blakeney leads LSU with 18.7 points per game and looks to fight for another Tiger win here under the direction of Johnny Jones. Coach Jones, in his fifth season at LSU, has already become one of the most winningest coaches with the Tigers, and at the Battle 4 Atlantis, he looks to tally another win to his record.
For the Shockers, losing Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet has been a challenge. However, so far, the young players stepping into their places have impressed and performed exceptionally, allowing WSU to post the numbers it has so far this season.
Really, these team look fairly matched coming to Atlantis, and the matchup could easily prove to be one of the closer games of Day One.
Baylor vs. VCU
Nov. 23 at 2:30 p.m. ET
In their second trip to the tournament, the Rams prepare to face the Bears, who they have not seen on the court since 1998. While the Bears look to come out on top over a VCU team that has gone undefeated against UNC Asheville, Liberty and Binghamton, the Rams could surprise Baylor with the talent of senior guard JeQuan Lewis and the team’s ability to post three-pointer after three-pointer.
Baylor, however, looks to have the advantage in this game. The Bears also come into the game 3-0, but their wins against Oral Roberts, No. 4 Oregon and Florida Gulf Coast seem to have already tested the team, whereas this will be VCU’s greatest test so far in the season.
Still, VCU is a tough team that is only one of eight teams to have tallied six straight bids to the NCAA tournament.
It looks to be a major battle for VCU, but with their strong defense and comfortably consistant offense, the Rams may be finding themselves in the second round of the tournament with an upset over the No. 20 team in the nation.
Michigan State vs. St. John’s
Nov. 23 at 7 p.m. ET
Bahamas-native and Michigan State junior guard Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr. prepares to play in front of a number of family and friends that have never had the opportunity to see him play in person. And he looks to make a serious impact in the outcome of the game. Nairn, however, is just one of the talented, experienced players in the Spartan’s backcourt. Eron Harris, Alvin Ellis III and Matt McQuaid all continue to perform well for Michigan State, despite the two losses to Arizona and Kentucky in the first two games.
Coming against St. John’s, however, the Spartans have a chance to show off their skills against a young Red Storm team. Still, even with the little experience the players have, St. John’s has dropped only a single game so far to Minnesota, and this fresh crop of talent continues to put numbers on the board. In fact, St. John’s Marcus LoVett remains the Big East’s leading scorer and places within the top-20 of the nation, putting up about 24 points per game.
Overall, this should be a fun matchup to watch.
Old Dominion vs. No. 10 Louisville
Nov. 23 at 9:30 p.m. ET
Louisville leaves its home court for the first time this season to take a trip to the Bahamas to face 2-0 Old Dominion, who posted wins over James Madison and Richmond before making the trip themselves. While Louisville, ranked within the nation’s top ten, looks to nab a win here, Old Dominion boast plenty of talent as well.
Sophomore forward Brandan Stith averages about 15 points per game and plays alongside senior guard Jordan Baker, who averages 14.5 points per game. Also, the team is led by head coach Jeff Jenkins, who during his coaching career has faced Louisville before and may know what to expect.
Still, this is Louisville’s second appearance in the Battle 4 Atlantis, finishing as the runner-up in 2012. So, with a strong team in tow and an understanding of how the tournament will go, Louisville looks to find its way into the second round.After the first-round games are completed on Tuesday, winners will continue to the second round, which will be played on Thanksgiving. Team that are defeated will go on to compete in a consolation bracket to be played throughout the week as well.
No matter what occurs during the first round, the Battle 4 Atlantis should be an excellent dose of action-packed, thrilling basketball for the week of Thanksgiving.