November basketball matters in the NCAA. When Selection Sunday rolls around on March 17 next year, the games played at the 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis could have a major impact on the field of 64.
Just ask Villanova, who helped their RPI in a major way with a 63-59 win over then ranked No.2 Kansas in the B4A semifinals.
Villanova went on to defeat No.23 ranked Iowa in the finals.
The pair of wins placed Villanova on the map nationally and they went from unranked to as high as No.6 in the Associated Press poll.
This year’s tournament, which tips off tomorrow is expected to feature another outstanding field,
The B4A is one of the highlights of the year for me as a reporter, so I feel it’s important that you know what you’re going to see.
First off as a University of Kentucky Alumni they make you sit through NCAA basketball appreciation classes as a freshman – I got all A’s. (That’s not a real course by the way, but it should be).
For basketball fans, it’s an opportunity to see the game played at a higher level than we’re accustomed.
For coaches, it’s an opportunity for your players to witness the game played as Larry Brown would say “the right way.”
For alumni having an opportunity to watch your alma mater play here in the Bahamas is something that was unthinkable just years ago, but is now a reality.
For me, it’s an opportunity to sit courtside at the media table behind the cool sign with my name on it and pretend to “work” doing something I would be doing on my time off anyway.
For groupies, it’s an opportunity to get a early jump on becoming a future cast member of Basketball Wives.
Let’s face it, as much as Bahamian girls love VH1 and reality television…this is their best chance to get there because there will be NBA-level talent in the building.
Whatever your reason, you should know what’s coming to town today, and you should recognise just how much it matters.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Buddy Hield – #24 Guard, Junior, Oklahoma Sooners
6’ 4” 212 lbs, 20.7ppg, 7rpg, 3apg, 55% from three,
If we don’t make the Imperial Arena feel like a home game for Buddy then I’m ashamed of us as a country and I’m moving to Canada. For the Bahamas to host this tournament is a big deal all on its own, but to have a Bahamian player in the tournament, one of this caliber, is an opportunity that we may not get again.
Hield has made the transition from an effort player as a freshman to a bonafide scorer and complete guard with an improved jumper.
Already projected as a first round pick by www.nbadraft.net Hield was named to the preseason All-Big12 team, ESPN Insider pegs him as a third team All-American and he was named to the Wooden Award watch list, giving to the most outstanding player in Division I basketball.
As a sophomore, Hield was named to the All-Big 12 second team and increased his scoring average by nine points per game from his freshman year. He also saw his field goal percentage rise from 38 per cent to 45 per cent and his three-point shooting increase from 23 per cent to 40 per cent.
Hield finished the regular season ranked No.9 in the Big 12 in scoring at 16.8 points per game, second in steals at 1.5 per game, third in three-point field goals made at 2.8 per game and fourth in three-point percentage.
Wannah Bail – #1 Forward, Sophomore, UCLA Bruins
6’ 9” 220 lbs, 3ppg, 4rpg
We went from no Bahamians playing in the Battle 4 Atlantis to two in the same year, and playing against each other in the second game of the tournament.
Bail doesn’t carry they star power that Hield does but he’s still a homegrown talent playing for a contender in a power conference. In an injury plagued freshman season, Bail Played in 13 games, averaged 1.6 points and 0.6 rebounds per game but has seen his minutes increase from 4.6 to 13 per game this season. Hopefully he can get into the rotation (I’m talking to you Steve Alford!!) and play meaningful minutes in front of the home crowd.
Frank Kaminsky- #44 Centre, Senior, Wisconsin Badgers
7’ 0” 242 lbs – 19.3ppg, 10.3rpg, 2.8bpg, 1.3,spg
Ridiculously skilled centre, so much so that you wouldn’t think that he was an American. Kamisky has a great shooting touch and instincts that remind you of a Gasol brother.
A legitimate stretch-5, he presents matchup problems for traditional centres and posts up smaller quicker defenders.
Kevon Looney – #5, Forward, Freshman, UCLA Bruins
6’ 9” 220 lbs, 14.8ppg, 12rpg
The highly touted McDonald’s All-American has been even better than advertised through the first four games of the season. He posted double doubles in three consecutive games and finished one rebound shy in his collegiate debut. Looney crashes the offensive glass, has the typical offensive game of a tweener and can guard multiple positions.
Sam Dekker –#15, Forward, Junior, Wisconsin Badgers
6’ 9” 230 lbs, 14ppg
Projected to be a first round pick by www.nbadraft.net, Dekker is prototypical small forward with the size and skill to excel in all aspects of the game. He can stretch defenses, as well as put the ball on the floor and get to the rim and moves well without the ball.
Kennedy Meeks – #3 Forward, Sophomore, North Carolina Tar Heels
6’ 9” 280 lbs, 16.7ppg, 11rpg
Meeks’ recent weight loss resulted in increased productivity on the floor as he’s emerged as the stabilising force in the Tar Heels offence (when they’re not playing the Providence Storms). Think an earthbound power-forward, 1950s mold, he has two doubles doubles thus far in cake season but it will be interesting to see how he stacks up against this formidable field.
TaShawn Thomas – #35 Forward, Senior, Oklahoma Sooners
6’8” 242 lbs, 9ppg, 4.5rpg
Thomas averaged 15.4 points and 8.1 rebounds as a junior for the Houston Cougars last year before he transferred to the Sooners.
He was recently granted eligibility by the NCAA just minutes before the matchup against Creighton and his still working his way into the rotation for the Sooners.
When he does find his groove in the offence, Thomas will provide a legitimate low post presence and force on the offensive glass in Lon Kruger’s offence.
Marcus Paige – #1 Guard, Junior, North Carolina Tar Heels
6’ 1” 175 lbs, 12ppg, 3apg
Flashy dynamic combo guard who excels passing or shooting off dribble penetration (when they’re not playing the Providence Storms). Knockdown catch and shoot player when he moves to the two-guard spot and Kenny Britt is in the game and also has an effective floater in his arsenal.
Norman Powell – #4 Guard, Senior, UCLA Bruins
6’ 4” 215 lbs, 20.3ppg, 4.3rpg
Projected to be selected on the cusp of 2015 lottery, Powell is another guard expected to lead following a rash of departures to the programme. He averaged 11 points per game last year but now as the leader of the Bruins offence and with his length, athleticism and ability to finish at rim, he could maintain this 20 point per game scoring pace for the season.
Ryan Spangler – #00 Forward, Junior, Oklahoma Sooners
6’8” 231 lbs, 11.7ppg, 10.3rpg
A walking double double that discovered that he can hit at least one three pointer per game if he tries. Maybe he should try taking three.
Bryce Alford – #20 Guard, Sophomore, UCLA Bruins
6’3” 180 lbs, 20ppg, 9.8apg
Anytime a college basketball player averages near double figures in assists, no matter how early into the season it is…you take notice.
Alford is the the catalyst behind the Bruins more uptempo 2014-15 offense, steadily pushing the ball on fast breaks and making smart decisions with the ball. A pass first point guard Alford appears more aggressive on the offensive end and is shooting 41 percent from three.
Smith has struggled shooting the ball early in the season, at just 31 percent, but his versatility in other areas of the game have been on display. A proven scorer who posted nearly 18 points per game in his sophomore year, maybe all needs is a change of scenery.
If you’ve never seen him play, you just have to. Not only are walk-on players to major programmes built-in feel good stories as the underdogs, but Hodskins’ story trumps them all. The one-handed guard was born without the lower part of his left arm.
Michael Frazier II – #20, Guard, Junior, Florida Gators
6’ 4” 194 lbs, 16ppg, 5rpg
Heading into his junior year, Frazier was expected to take on a larger scoring role for the Gators with the departure of of three of their top four scorers from last season. That role is expected to increase even further with the rash of injuries that have hit Billy Donovan’s squad. If they expect to escape the B4A in the top 10, Frazier will have to be huge.
Dunham is the best shooter in this tournament and arguably the best shooter in the NCAA this season. Cross – racial reference alert, think Reggie Miller more than going for the easy and less accurate Jimmer Fredette comparisons he’s likely to get. Dunham works well off screens, legit NBA range and can create space to shoot it off the dribble.
Tyler Madison – #22, Guard, Sophomore, UAB Blazers
6’4″ 225 lbs, 12.3ppg,3.8rpg
Strong explosive guard that finds every way imaginable to score. Highlight reel potential with his dunks and has been clutch already for the Blazers this season, most notably in the win over Jackson State when he scored four points in the game’s final minute.
Joshua Smith – #24, Centre, Senior, Georgetown Hoyas
6’ 10” 350 lbs, 17.3ppg, 8.3rpg
A school known for a tradition of powerhouse centres (in no way am I comparing Smith to those guys, but I digress) has found some stability in the middle with the addition of Smith to the programme. The UCLA transfer is coming off consecutive double doubles, the first in over two years, since his freshman season with the Bruins.