Here it comes, one of the tournaments we have all been waiting for! The Battle 4 Atlantis is always one of the marquee events of the college basketball season and the with a week off since their last game versus La Salle the Gators will be more than ready for the flurry of games against competition from all around the country. In search of some resume-boosting wins the Gators will look to stay on the winning side of the bracket and take things all the way to the top. Here’s a preview of everything you need to know.
Florida’s first matchup comes against Oklahoma who currently sits at 3-0 on the season with a nice win against a quality mid-major in Wofford. The first thing you’ll notice about the Sooners is that they play at a breakneck pace. Currently 10th in the country in adjusted tempo they’re looking to get early offense before their opponent has a chance to set up defensively. Florida is currently doing an amazing job at slowing their opponents down (the Gators’ opponents are 320th in average possession length) and this makes for an interesting matchup right off the bat. Who is going to be able to dictate tempo, the Sooners who want to shoot early or the Gators who want to slow their opponent down?
If the Gators want to keep Oklahoma from getting easy buckets they’ll have to key in on senior guard Christian James. Averaging 22.7 points per game on 58.3% shooting from the field, he’s a handful on the perimeter and is the focal point of the Sooner attack. Everything starts with him as a threat on the wing and if the Gators can find a way to limit his dribble penetration they’ll be on their way to a good defensive basketball game. Point guard Aaron Calixte and big man Brady Manek are the floor spacers for Oklahoma and really benefit from James’ penetration with Calixte being particularly dangerous at 50% from three. The Gators will have to be disciplined in knowing where help is coming from when James has the ball to ensure they don’t over-help and leave a wide-open jumper available.
Oklahoma is a team that struggled offensively last year and only looks marginally better now. While their starting perimeter of Aaron Calixte, Miles Reynolds, and Christian James is affective offensively, they’re all small for their positions and have struggled to keep guys in front of them. The frontcourt of Kristian Doolittle and Brady Manek is also geared more towards floor spacing on offense than it is locking down on defense and they aren’t great help defenders or shot blockers. The Gators haven’t looked great offensively yet this season but if there was a team that would allow them to get comfortable again, it’s Oklahoma.
I think this game will come down to whether or not the Gators can defend the Sooners. Oklahoma won’t be winning too many games because of their defense this season so if the Gators can slow the pace and limit the Sooners’ scores then they should be in good shape.
After opening against Oklahoma the Gators will play either Wisconsin or Stanford. Wisconsin has had a really good start to the season lead by hyper-efficient big man Ethan Happ while Stanford has been lackluster and I think the Badgers are going to dominate this one. The other side of the bracket sees Butler playing Dayton and Virginia playing Middle Tennessee State. If the Gators were to make it to the finals I would fully expect them to see Virginia, and if the Gators were to beat Oklahoma but then lose in the second round I think they’d be playing Butler in the third place game which would be a preview of the matchup these two teams will have in Gainesville later in the non-conference season.
Finding Their Range
As we all know, the Gators have struggled to shoot the basketball so far this season and the Battle 4 Atlantis will be a tough place to correct that problem. Since the B4A is played in what’s essentially a massive conference room the sightlines are strange, the depth perception of the rim and backboard is obscure, and the lighting is much darker than you’re used to seeing in a normal college basketball gym. Currently 318th in the country in three-point shooting at 26.2% they might not be able to shoot much worse and maybe the change in scenery is what they need but you should definitely watch for how well or how poorly the Gators shoot. I truly think this is a better shooting team than they have shown to this point but a lot of teams have gone into the Bahamas and struggled to shoot in the atypical setting so I wouldn’t be shocked if the Gators were the same.
The Tournament Will be A Success If…
The Battle 4 Atlantis will be a success for the Gators if they win the first game against Oklahoma and then at least split their next two going 2-1. A win against Oklahoma and one other team on that side of the bracket would be two excellent neutral-site victories that would be big for the team’s confidence and great for their NCAA Tournament resume. If the Gators were to make it to the finals and play Virginia, a loss wouldn’t be bad at all. What’s really important is the first game against Oklahoma, and I’ll explain why…
The Tournament Will Be A Failure If…
It would not be good at all if the Gators lost their first game against Oklahoma. It’s not that a loss to the Sooners would be awful, they are a good team after all, but the rest of the tournament wouldn’t see many good opportunities for the Gators to get good wins. As I mentioned before, I think Wisconsin will dismantle Stanford. If the Gators lost against Oklahoma they’d most likely play Stanford, the 86th ranked team in KenPom, and a win over them wouldn’t be all that impressive from a resume standpoint while a loss to them would be terrible. If the Gators beat them, they’d then play the winner of the likely first round losers of the other side of the bracket in Dayton and Middle Tennessee State.
Dayton is 103rd in KenPom while Middle Tennessee State is 165th and just suffered a 19-point loss to Belmont and then followed it up with a narrow 3-point win over Charleston Southern who the Gators beat by 30.
So, the Gators would probably play Dayton in the finale of the losing side of the bracket. The Gators would probably win that one and go 2-1, but it would be a really empty 2-1 with their wins not really being resume boosters.
I hope this shows how important this game against Oklahoma is. If they beat the Sooners and lose in the second round at least they’ll end up playing Butler which would give the Gators three great games, but a loss to the Sooners would see them playing two empty games afterwards.
Keys For The Gators
Florida will have to find a way to get some offensive rhythm going and it could be tough in this setting. Since shooting the ball could be a challenge they’ll need to find scoring inside and scoring at the rim, something that could come through their big men in Isaiah Stokes and Kevarrius Hayes after his big showing against La Salle or from getting drives from their perimeter players like Jalen Hudson and Deaundrae Ballard. Keeping up the defensive intensity they’ve shown so far will also be big because it’s likely other team’s will have the same trouble shooting the ball in the wacky hotel conference room setting. If the game turns into a rock fight the Gators will have to be able to win ugly.