By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
COMPLETE Sports Management’s Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis tips off another edition today as the Atlantis hosts the premier early season NCAA Division I basketball tournament.
The 2019 B4A, which runs through November 29, will feature another outstanding field, headlined by the North Carolina Tar Heels (ACC), the Gonzaga Bulldogs (WCC), the Seton Hall Pirates (Big East) and Oregon Ducks (PAC 12).
The remainder of the field also includes the Michigan Wolverines (BIG 10) Iowa State Cyclones (BIG 12), Alabama Crimson Tide (SEC) and Southern Mississippi Eagles (C-USA).
Four members of the field are currently ranked in the top 10 of the Associated Press Top 25 Poll, including No.6 North Carolina, No.8 Gonzaga, No.11 Oregon and No.13 Seton Hall.
Former Wolverine and NBA player Juwan Howard is in his first year at the helm as head coach of the programme.
“Overall we are really excited about being here in The Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis. This is Michigan’s second time and my first and we are looking forward to the match-up. Overall this will be a great experience for our team to compete in some high-level competition.
“We know it’s a very high level and tough competition, but we are built for the competition. We prepared for this,” he said. “This is a beautiful island and the people here are so warm and inviting and they have done an excellent job of just opening up their island and just showing us how special this island is. I think it’s beautiful that the Michigan family has embraced this opportunity and we are just looking forward to each and every day and I know on Saturday there will be some sad faces, not because we are going back to a colder Michigan, but because we are leaving a beach and ocean – thank you Bahamas!”
Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm said: “We are here this year at one of the best pre-season tournaments in the country but we are here because of the guys that played before us. All these great guys before us led the way to put us in this tournament so we really challenge our guys to honour them and honour Iowa State while we are down here. So we are excited to be here. We’ve got an unbelievable field, four of the top 15 teams.”
Sophomore guard Tyrese Haliburton noted the adjustment to shooting in the Imperial Ballroom.
“At first it’s just like you’re on a long flight so you’re just getting to shooting but it’s the same as any gym and it’s just a little bit different because of depth perception and things like that but you get used to it,” he said.
Southern Miss head coach Jay Ladner said he considered it a privilege for his programme to be featured among the great schools playing in the B4A.
“Southern Mississippi University is excited about being a part of the Battle 4 Atlantis. We feel it’s the most prestigious holiday tournament there is, and for us to be able to participate is a great honour. We have an extremely young team. We’re certainly new in our programme, myself and our staff, taking over in the beginning of May last year so we’re still in a learning process with our team, and excited with the progress that we’ve made so far,” he said. “We’ve got a long way to go and this is a huge step up in competition for us. It’s a great opportunity for our programme and for our young guys to experience where we want to be eventually with our programme, and that’s at the level of the competition that’s here.”
Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard said the tournament will be an effective early season test for his team.
“This will be the test of where we are and where we have to go because the teams we are playing, they all play different styles,” he said. “Oregon is extremely fast-paced and push the pace but then defensively they try to muck it up a little bit and slow you down and do a lot of switching and then your next opponent will be totally different so I think for moving forward it’s a lot like you see in the Big East or a Big East tournament where you have three different styles on three different nights so it prepares the players and the coaches to kind of adapt very quickly and that is what I love about these tournaments.”
Several programmes have participated in community outreach efforts, including Alabama’s visit to the Ranfurly Home, North Carolina’s visit to the Bahamas Children’s Emergency Hostel and Oregon’s visit to Sandilands Primary school.
“I’d like to see that get a little more attention, it was really a neat deal,” Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams said on his team’s donation drive to support hurricane relief. “That was almost an emotional experience going over there and doing those kinds of things.
“We very seldom give enough attention to the good things that college basketball players do, and this was really a neat deal.”
Tar Heels senior guard Brandon Robinson also spearheaded a communication and no-profit senior project where he raised money and awareness for the post-Dorian relief. They donated the items to the Children’s Emergency Hostel on Sunday.
“It was over 1,000 pounds of items, a lot of stuff. [We delivered it] the first day we got here, Sunday, so we went straight there and delivered it,” Robinson said.
Alabama head coach Nate Oats said his team’s community service efforts at the Ranfurly Home also had a great impact on the players.
“It was actually great,” he said. “The guy that ran it explained to our guys that their numbers basically doubled after the hurricane, because they brought so many kids in from Freeport so it’s kind of overcrowded now. I thought our guys did a really good job with interacting with the kids there. It was 11-17 year olds, and now with the Freeport kids coming in they’ve got some 7-, 8-10-year-olds. It shows you what kind of high-character kids you have when guys go out of their way to help people that will never really be able to help them. I thought it was great, and pretty moving, the struggles these kids have gone through, so if we win or lose a basketball game it’s really not that big a deal compared to what these kids have been through.”
The Tar Heels participated in the 2014 tournament where they finished fifth.
Gonzaga and Michigan were both in the 2015 event where they finished third and fifth respectively.
Game 1 - Michigan vs Iowa State, 12pm (ESPN)
Game 2 - No. 6 North Carolina vs Alabama, 2:30pm (ESPN)
Game 3 - No. 8 Gonzaga vs Southern Miss, 7pm (ESPN)
Game 4 - No. 13 Seton Hall vs No. 11 Oregon, 9:30pm (ESPN2)