The best week of the year is here. Feast Week. Oregon is lucky enough to get to compete in the biggest holiday event that college basketball has to offer during this holy of weeks, the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. The lineup is stacked with competitive programs from across the country (including four schools in the top 15 of the AP rankings) and should be loads of fun to watch. Oregon arguably has the toughest road to be named champion out of all the teams. Dana Altman is more than happy to play against the best of the bunch and try to grab some key resume victories that will play a big part in the selection committee’s process when creating the NCAA Tournament bracket. Let’s take a look at all the schools competing in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Michigan Wolverines (4-0)
KenPom Ranking - #25
Juwan Howard (Fab Five member and first year head coach of the Wolverines) is trying to make his mark and is off to a solid start. Howard’s got something that you don’t hear much in college basketball anymore, a senior starting point guard. That’s right, Zavier Simpson (14.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 9.0 APG, 1.3 SPG) is the heart and soul of the Wolverines. He is a physical and speedy guard who is pretty efficient from the field.
The Wolverines are a rather large team so it’s going to be hard to attack the paint if you end up against them. Although, for their size, they really aren’t all that good of a rebounding team. Michigan averages 36.3 rebounds per game which ranks 230th in the nation. Crashing the glass is key when going up against the men from Ann Arbor.
Iowa State Cyclones (3-1)
KenPom Ranking - #40
The Cyclones lone loss was to one of the more talented Oregon State teams the school has had in recent years and they kept it close, 80-74. Solomon Young is a load down low for Iowa State and is an intimidating player to face up against. The junior from Sacramento, CA is putting up solid numbers (12.0 PPG, 4.8 APG, 1.3 BPG, 55.9 FG%). Don’t let him get comfortable in the paint or you will pay for it. Also, Iowa State has had balanced scoring early on as four players are averaging double figures. Be ready for the Cyclones to share the ball a lot and bring an even force of attack.
#6 North Carolina Tar Heels (4-0)
KenPom Ranking - #9
Cole Anthony. Watch out. The 6’3” guard is putting up video game-like numbers (22.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.8 SPG). The son of former UNLV star and 11-year NBA player Greg Anthony is going to end up being a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft without a doubt. And that’s not all North Carolina has in their holster. They have the senior leadership on their side but it came from not where you would expect Roy Williams to find it. That would be the NCAA graduate transfer portal. Christian Keeling from Charleston Southern and Justin Pierce from William and Mary. Roy Williams has national championship aspirations and he has the tools to do it this year.
The Tar Heels are the best rebounding team in the nation at 51.3 rebounds per game. If you can keep them off the glass and somehow slow down Anthony, you might have a chance.
Alabama Crimson Tide (2-2)
KenPom Ranking - #76
Nate Oats looks to bring a new era of high-tempo play to Alabama basketball. It has been a tough beginning to his chapter in Tuscaloosa but with every start comes a few rough patches. Kira Lewis Jr. (21.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.8 SPG) has been the brightest part of this Crimson Tide team. Keep an eye out for that matchup in the backcourt between Lewis and Cole Anthony of North Carolina in the first round. Should be quite the battle between the two future NBA professionals.
#8 Gonzaga Bulldogs (6-0)
KenPom Ranking - #6
Mark Few has done it again. He put together one of the more underrated rosters in the nation together. He enjoys being under the radar up there in Spokane so he can surprise a lot of college basketball fans come March. Happens pretty much every year. His frontcourt is loaded with talent (Killian Tillie, Filip Petrusev, Drew Timme, Anton Watson) but his backcourt is the part of the team that will be sneaky good this season. Two grad transfers fill out the guard positions with Ryan Woolridge (11.7 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 3.7 APG, 59.5 FG%, 69.2 3P%) from North Texas and Admon Gilder (13.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.2 SPG) from Texas A&M. This team will only go as far as these two will let them. If Woolrdige and Gilder are connecting on all cylinders (hitting shots from the perimeter, finding shooters on the wing and feeding the big men in the paint), Gonzaga will make an argument for a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. How well they do in the Battle 4 Atlantis will play a huge part in that.
Let’s hope we get the matchup all of the Pacific Northwest wants in the second round, Oregon going up against Gonzaga. That should make for good television.
Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (2-3)
KenPom Ranking - #224
You got to have one runt of the bunch and that is Southern Miss in this tournament. They are by far the worst team in the tournament and will have a hard time going up against any of these teams in the field. The Golden Eagles are extremely young, inexperienced and will have a tough time when the bright lights are shining on them (seriously, the ball room where this tournament is being held in the Bahamas has bright lights on the court while the stands are completely pitch-dark).
#13 Seton Hall Pirates (4-1)
KenPom Ranking - #19
Arguably, the best player you will see in this tournament plays for Seton Hall out of the Big East and that is Myles Powell (22.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.8 APG, 41.9 3P%). The National Player of the Year contender has the green light from anywhere on the court. You have to have a body following him wherever he goes and that will be a tough task for anyone on Oregon’s team. Chris Duarte will probably start out on him but I’m sure Dana Altman will be playing with who gets to do that throughout the game.
The Pirates have a enormous frontcourt with 4 players standing over 6’10”, including 7’2” Romaro Gill (5.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 2.8 BPG). He protects the rim very well and is a strong complement to Myles Powell on the court.
#11 Oregon Ducks (5-0)
KenPom Ranking - #18
The Ducks have been playing at a high level so far in the early part of the season. The Seton Hall matchup will be an even tougher game than the Memphis Tigers were. As I mentioned before, the Pirates are huge. It will be tough assignment for Shakur Juiston and Francis Okoro to slow down the big men for the Pirates. Points in the paint won’t come easily for the Ducks. That is why Anthony Mathis is the x-factor in this game. He is shooting at an extremely high level in his first 5 games with the Ducks (20-31 from beyond the arc) and will be a key component to a Ducks victory.
Payton Pritchard (19.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 5.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, 54.0 FG%) has done so much for this team already but they will need even more from him in this tournament. Let’s find out if he really should be considered one of the best point guards in the country. Tip-off for Seton Hall-Oregon will be 9:30 PM ET on ESPN2 on November 27th.
Battle 4 Atlantis Predictions:
Championship: UNC over Gonzaga
3rd Place Game: Oregon over Michigan
5th Place Game: Seton Hall over Iowa State
7th Place Game: Alabama over Southern Miss
*Arden Cravalho is a Gonzaga University graduate from the Bay Area... Follow him on Twitter @a_cravalho