Battle 4 Atlantis preview: Breaking down the field in the Bahamas

Defending national champion Kansas in the same tournament as Dayton for the third time in four years

NASSAU, Bahamas — Anyone traveling through Lynden Pindling International Airport on the way to the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament may see a man dressed as a pirate posing for photos with tourists in the terminal. There’s also a Pirates of Nassau museum in Olde Towne.

“The year is 1716,” the museum’s website reads, “and your adventure begins on a moonlit dock amidst the sounds of lapping water and pirates celebrating in a nearby tavern. Walk alongside the pirate frigate ‘Revenge’ and enter the world of cutlass wielding, looting pirates.”

The Dayton Flyers played the pirate role a year ago, stealing the trophy Kansas surely thought belonged to them at the ESPN Events Invitational. Dayton entered that tournament with a 1-3 record but beat Miami, Kansas and Belmont to win the title in Florida. It was Dayton’s first championship in a November tournament since 2011 when it won the Old Spice Classic at the same arena near Walt Disney World.

The Flyers begin the Battle 4 Atlantis this week with the opposite record of 3-1, and they are far from the underdog. Here’s a breakdown of the eight-team field.

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Favorite: Kansas, the defending national champion, is off to a 4-0 start with victories against Nebraska-Omaha, North Dakota State, Duke and Southern Utah. Until a 74-73 loss to Dayton in the semifinals last season, Kansas had won six of these in-season tournaments in a row.

Dayton and Kansas are in the same tournament for the third time in four years. Last year, the Flyers avenged an 90-84 overtime loss to the Jayhawks in the Maui Invitational in 2019.

Biggest underdog: Butler (3-1) is the lowest-ranked team in the field, according to the Ken Pomeroy ratings. It’s No. 87. The other teams are: No. 6 Tennessee (2-1); No. 11 Kansas (4-0); No. 38 Dayton (3-1); No. 43 Wisconsin (3-0); No. 57 Brigham Young (3-1); No. 62 USC (3-1); and No. 69 North Carolina State (4-0).

Butler owns victories over New Orleans, St. Francis (Pa.) and The Citadel and a 68-62 loss at Penn State.

Former Ohio State coach Thad Matta is the first-year head coach at Butler, and one of his assistants is Kevin Kuwik, who was on Archie Miller’s staff at Dayton throughout his six-year tenure before moving to Bob McKillop’s staff at Davidson for the last five seasons.

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Best player: Kansas junior Jalen Wilson, a 6-foot-8 junior forward, made the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook’s All-America preseason second team. He leads the Jayhawks with 24.5 points per game after averaging 11.1 points per game last season. He ranks second in KenPom.com’s national player of the year standings.

Best freshman: Gradey Dick, a 6-8 forward for Kansas, ranked 22nd in the class of 2022, according to 247Sports.com. He’s averaging 16.8 points per game.

Credit: David Jablonski

Credit: David Jablonski

Winningest coaches: Bill Self, of Kansas, has a career record of 766-229 (.770) and has won two national championships.

Tennessee’s Rick Barnes is not far behind Self in career victories with a record of 755-396 (.656).

Matta, who is back in coaching after a five-year absence, is 440-155 (.739).

Dayton’s Anthony Grant career record stands at 296-163 (.645).

The field of coaches also includes: Wisconsin’s Greg Gard, who has taken his program to the NCAA tournament five times in seven seasons; BYU’s Mark Pope, who was the captain of Kentucky’s national championship team in 1996; USC’s Andy Enfield, who has coached the Trojans to four NCAA tournament berths in nine years after leading Florida Gulf Coast to the Sweet 16 in 2013; and N.C. State’s Kevin Keats, who’s in his sixth season with the Wolfpack after three seasons at UNC Wilmington.

Storyline to watch: Butler forward Manny Bates played the last three seasons at N.C. State. Butler and N.C. State are on opposite sides of the bracket and could meet on the final day of the tournament Friday. He’s averaging 13.5 points in four games.

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Best first-round game: Dayton and Wisconsin play at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN. It’s the second meeting between the programs and first since 1961.

This is Dayton’s second appearance in the tournament. The Flyers beat Butler before losing to Virginia and Oklahoma in 2018.

In the other Wednesday games, Kansas plays N.C. State at noon on ESPN. USC plays Brigham Young at 5 p.m. on ESPN2. Tennessee plays Butler at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.

Past champions: Wisconsin has played in the championship game twice, beating Oklahoma in 2014 and losing to Virginia in 2018.

Baylor beat Michigan State in the final last season, five years after beating Louisville in the title game. Other winners include: Harvard (2011); Duke (2012); Villanova (2013 and 2017); Syracuse (2015); and Michigan (2019).

WEDNESDAY’S GAME

Dayton vs. Wisconsin, 2:30 p.m., ESPN2, 1290, 95.7

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