By RICARDO WELLS
WITH the prestigious men’s division one collegiate Battle 4 Atlantis basketball tournament set to get underway today, Bahamian players are primed to take centre stage as Buddy Hield’s Oklahoma Sooners square-off against Wannah Bail’s UCLA Bruins.
The three-day tournament will feature an eight-team field, including the North Carolina Tar Heels, Georgetown Hoyas, UCLA Bruins, Florida Gators, Wisconsin Badgers, Oklahoma Sooners, UAB Blazers and Butler Bulldogs.
Hield and the Sooners are scheduled to meet Bail and the Bruins in game two of the tournament 2:30pm today with Hield calling the opportunity of playing in front of the Bahamian crowd “huge.”
“[My family] being here, supporting me, is very special. I’m just going to feed off of the crowd and the energy. It means a lot just being here, in my home. My family and friends are coming to see me, to watch me play. I’ll be looking forward to it.”
Hield, the 30th ranked player in the nation going into his junior season, is leading the Sooners in scoring at 20.6 points per game.
One of his University of Oklahoma team-mates, Ryan Spangler said: “Buddy is one of the reasons our team has been so great lately”.
UCLA and Bail enter the tournament ranked No.22 in the AP poll, and No.23 in the USA Today coaches poll. Bail is in his sophomore season with the Bruins after a long recruiting process which took him all the way to the Canary Islands for a season.
The winner of the Sooners/Bruins matchup would advance to take on the winner of UNC/Butler game on Thursday.
The other half of the bracket will feature a pair of 2013 Final Four teams in Florida and Wisconsin. The Badgers and Blazers will meet the Hoyas in their opening match 7pm today, while the Gators and Hoyas are slated to meet at 9:30pm in the day’s finale.
President and managing director at the Atlantis resort, George Markantonis, stated recently that officials at the mega hotel anticipated a 2014 Thanksgiving sell-out.
He said: “Our ticket sales for all the games are ahead of pace from last year by about 15 per cent. I didn’t think that was possible, but they are. I think it’s going to be another excellent Thanksgiving in November. The final is already completely sold out and we’re going to run the same sold-out occupancy as we did last year.”
Four more games are set to be played on Thursday starting at 1pm with the winners from Wednesday squaring off against each other, while the losers will clash.
On Black Friday, the remaining four games will be contested, including the championship game at 4:30pm. The third and fourth place game is scheduled to kick off the activity at 2pm. At 8pm, the 5th and 6th place game will take place and the tournament will wrap up at 10:20pm with the 7th and 8th place game.