Breaking Down Battle 4 Atlantis

Nov. 28, 2013

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

NASSAU, Bahamas — When the University of Iowa men’s basketball team takes the court today in Imperial Arena in its opening game of the Battle 4 Atlantis, UI head coach Fran McCaffery will gain a better understanding of where his Hawkeyes stand.

“We’re playing very well, but we’ve beaten teams everybody expected us to beat,” said McCaffery of Iowa’s 5-0 start. “Now we’re playing teams that people aren’t sure if we’re going to beat. (I want us) to go out and play well against those teams and compete in a way that exemplifies our capability moving forward.”

For the first time this season, Iowa will square off against competition that can matchup athletically and depth-wise. The Hawkeyes have 10 players averaging at least 15 minutes per game.

“This is a field where you have more teams like us in terms of they have 10 good players,” said McCaffery. “It is going to be an interesting three days for us.”

Below is a team-by-team rundown of the Battle 4 Atlantis field. Iowa will play Xavier today, UTEP or Tennessee on Friday and one team from the group of Kansas, Villanova, Wake Forest and Southern California on Saturday

“I am very excited,” said sophomore Jarrod Uthoff. “It should be a great test for us, playing Xavier, Tennessee or UTEP, and if we win those two, probably Kansas.”

Xavier (5-0)
Xavier is currently 5-0 after downing Abilene Christian, 93-65, on Nov. 25. The Muskateers are led by guard Semaj Christon, who averages 16.4 points and five assists per game. Christon was a 2012-13 Kyle Macy Freshman All-American. Matt Steinbrook averages 10.2 points, 9.2 rebounds and has 13 blocks. Xavier has advanced to the NCAA Tournament in seven of the last eight seasons, which includes three trips to the Sweet 16 and one Elite Eight appearance.

Tennessee (3-1)
The Volunteers have reeled off three-straight victories since falling to Xavier, 67-63, in their regular-season opener. Tennessee has three players averaging in double digits with Jordan McRae leading the team with a 21.5 scoring average. Jarnell Stokes (11.5 points, 8.3 rebounds) and Antonio Barton (10.8 points) also average 10+ points. The Vols have played in the postseason in each of the past eight years, which includes back-to-back appearances in the National Invitation Tournament under head coach Cuonzo Martin.

UTEP (3-2)
The Miners bring a 3-2 record to the Bahamas with both losses coming to New Mexico State. UTEP has four players averaging in double figures with McKenzie Moore leading the team with 14 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists, while Vince Hunter adds 10.2 points and 7.4 rebounds. The Miners are led by former Iowa State head coach Tim Floyd.

Kansas (4-0)
The Jayhawks are currently ranked second in both the Coaches’ and Associated Press polls and bring a 4-0 record into the Battle 4 Atlantis. Kansas defeated fourth-ranked Duke, 94-83, in the Champions Classic on Nov. 12. The Jayhawks are led by freshman Andrew Wiggins (16.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and sophomore Perry Ellis (16.8 points, seven rebounds). Kansas has made 24-straight NCAA Tournament appearances — the longest streak nationally — and won nine-straight Big 12 regular season titles.

Villanova (4-0)
The Wildcats bring a 4-0 record into the tournament following an 84-80 victory over Delaware on Nov. 22. Villanova has three players averaging in double figures with JayVaughn Pinkston pacing the team at 20.3 points per game. James Bell averages 18 points and seven rebounds, while Darrun Hilliard chips in 14 points to go along with a team-best 17 assists. The Wildcats have played in the NCAA Tournament in seven of the last eight seasons.

Wake Forest (5-0)
The Demon Deacons are 5-0 this season under fourth-year head coach Jeff Bzdelik. Wake Forest has four players averaging double digits with Codi Miller-McIntyre leading the way with 18.6 points and 24 assists. Big man Devin Thomas averages 14.4 points and an ACC-best 11.6 rebounds. The Demon Deacons haven’t played in the NCAA Tournament since 2010.

Southern California (4-1)
The Trojans have reeled off four-straight victories since falling 78-65 to Utah State in their season debut. USC has three players averaging in double figures with Byron Wesley pacing the squad with 19.8 points and 8.8 rebounds. The Trojans are led by first-year head coach Andy Enfield, who led Florida Gulf Coast to the Sweet 16 last season.