Sports

Highly-ranked teams coming for inaugural Women’s B4A

For the past nine years, the Atlantis Resort has hosted the Battle 4 Atlantis (B4A) men’s collegiate basketball tournament. This year, organizers have added the inaugural women’s college tournament to the event.

The women’s field features the top two ranked teams in the country, three of the top 10, four of the top 25, and it is set for November 20-22 at the Imperial Arena inside Atlantis on Paradise Island.

For the inaugural tournament, organizers have set the bar very high. The three preseason top 10 teams that are entered have won 12 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I titles between them. There are also two Hall of Fame coaches. There are eight teams that are participating in total.

Playing in the inaugural tournament are the University at Buffalo Bulls, the University of Connecticut (UConn) Huskies, the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, the University of Oklahoma Sooners, the University of Oregon Ducks, the University of South Carolina Gamecocks, the University of South Florida Bulls and the Syracuse University Orange.

The Gamecocks enters the preseason as the number one ranked team in the country in the Associated Press (AP) Poll. Behind them in the number two spot is the Huskies and at number 10 is the Ducks.

Hall of Fame coach and Olympic Champion Dawn Staley has been the head coach of the Gamecocks since 2008. She led her team to an NCAA DI National Championship in 2017 and reached the Final Four for a third time last season but they lost to eventual champions Stanford University, 66-65, in the national semifinals. They finished last season with a 26-5 win/loss record and were 14-2 in Southeastern Conference (SEC) play. They were able to nab four of the top-11 prospects in this year’s 

recruiting class.

Staley is excited to be a part of the event that she said has been well-run on the men’s side. She expects all of the teams to be competitive.

“It’s an honor to be part of the inaugural women’s Battle 4 Atlantis, and we’re extremely excited to get to The Bahamas to take part in this event,” she said. “The long history of a well-run men’s tournament means we are confident we will have everything we need to prepare to face a challenging field and it’s a chance for our team to have an amazing experience off the court as well.”

Staley has an overall record of 331-103 with the Gamecocks and a winning percentage of 76.3 percent.

Looking to give her competition is the Huskies who is the most successful women’s basketball program in NCAA Division I history. They have won a record 11 NCAA Division I National Championships including four in a row from 2013-2016. Sitting in the head coach’s seat for all 11 of those championship and for a 36th season is Hall of Fame and Olympian coach Geno Auriemma. He guided the team to a whopping 21 Final Four appearances and sports a 1,119-144 overall record with a 88.6 win percentage. The program was able to ink the top recruit for 2021 in Azzi Fudd.

Like Staley, Aureima is looking forward to the stiff competition that this tournament will bring early on in the season.

“We’re excited to participate in the first-ever women’s Battle 4 Atlantis. There’s a lot of great teams in this tournament, and fans are going to see a lot of great basketball. It’s a really good test for our players early in the season in a really great location,” he said.

The Huskies finished with a 28-2 record including an 18-0 unblemished record in Big East Conference play last season. They lost to the University of Arizona, 69-59, in the Final Four.

The Ducks jumped up 13 spots from the end of last season to come in at number 10 in the rankings. Their head coach is Kelly Graves who enters his eighth season in that position. They have not won an NCAA DI National Championship but Graves led the Ducks to its only NCAA Final Four appearance in 2019. The Ducks finished the 2021 season with a 15-9 overall record and were 10-7 in PAC-12 Conference play. They made it to the Sweet Sixteen before the University of Louisville Cardinals knocked them out, 60-42.

Graves is happy to be competing in a great location.

“We’re thrilled to be able to compete with other elite programs in what is the most competitive tournament in the country. There’s nothing better than having your team tested early in the season against three strong opponents in a place as beautiful as The Bahamas,” Graves said.

The South Florida Bulls is at number 21 in the rankings. Head Coach Jose Fernandez said he and his team are happy to be a part of the tournament.

“I think this is an incredible opportunity for all eight teams to experience The Bahamas and play in such a high caliber basketball tournament. When you talk about the student-athlete experience, this is something our players will always remember,” 

Fernandez said.

The Bulls finished the 2020-2021 season at 19-4 and were 12-2 in the American Athletic Conference (AAC). Fernandez has been at the help of the program since the 2000-2001 season. They are the reigning AAC Champions. Fernandez led the Bulls to six NCAA national tournament appearances including last season when they knocked out 79-67 in the second round by the North Carolina State Wolfpack.

With half of the teams in this tournament being in the AP Top-25, it is gearing up to be a great inaugural Bad Boy Mowers Women’s Battle 4 Atlantis Classic. After the women’s tournament, the men take the court form November 24-26 for the 10th edition of the Bad Boy Mowers Men’s Battle 4 Atlantis Classic.

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Simba French

Simba joined The Nassau Guardian in 2012 as a technical producer for Guardian Radio 96.9 FM. He joined the Editorial Department as a sports reporter in 2018. Simba has covered a wide range of sports stories, including the 2018 CARIFTA in Nassau, Bahamas. Education: College of the Bahamas, BA Media Journalism

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