Feast Week Previews: Atlantis, Advocare, Wooden

Posted by Andy Gripshover on November 25th, 2015

Three more Feast Week events begin play on Wednesday or Thursday. As we did with Feast Week events already underway — like Puerto Rico and Charleston, as well as Maui, Legends, CBE and Cancun — let’s take a look at each tournament’s favorite, dark horse, team(s) with the most on the line, and a key storyline and player to watch.

Battle 4 Atlantis

Kyle Wiltjer Leads Gonzaga to the Bahamas (USA Today)

Kyle Wiltjer Leads Gonzaga To The Bahamas (USA Today)

  • Favorite: Gonzaga. This is not a vintage Atlantis field like those of 2012 or last year. The Zags are barely inside the top 10 and completely untested through two games, but the only other team in the field who made the NCAA tournament last year was Texas, who is starting over with Shaka Smart and already lost a game in Shanghai to the Zags’ quarterfinal opponent, Washington. Gonzaga has easily proven the most of any of the eight teams in Atlantis and deserve to be considered the favorite.
  • Darkhorse: UConn. The Huskies are a dark horse in a tournament? That arrangement has worked out well once or twice. Last year, UConn only scored 70 or more points seven times the entire season. This year, the Huskies feature a more balanced roster with transfers Sterling Gibbs (Seton Hall) and Shonn Miller (Cornell) joining highly regarded freshman Jalen Adams and former Ryan Boatright sidekicks Daniel Hamilton and Rodney Purvis. So far, this new cast of players has scored more effectively than last year’s team, producing 80 points or more in each of their three wins, including a 100 spot against Maine in the season opener.
  • Most on the line: Syracuse, Texas, Texas A&M. The Orange have struggled to score at times this season but draw a young, depleted Charlotte squad in the quarterfinals; a win in that game likely earns them two chances at resume-building wins. The Lone Star State showdown is a quarterfinal matchup featuring teams who were near but on opposite sides of the cut-line for the field of 68 last year. Smart won’t endear himself to locals and those ever-important Texas boosters if the Longhorns drop an early decision to hated rival A&M.
  • Storyline: Who is this year’s 2011 Harvard/2013 Villanova? That upstart Crimson team shocked everyone in winning the initial Battle 4 Atlantis, launching a 26-5 season and the first of five straight Tournament appearances. The Wildcats stunned second ranked Kansas in the 2013 semifinals before knocking off another ranked team in Iowa in the final, propelling the Cats to a 29-5 campaign. Could the Orange or Huskies use the next few days to make a similar journey onto the national radar? Can Shaka conjure up his old tournament tricks to kickstart his Texas tenure?

  • Player to Watch: Caris LeVert, F, Michigan. Yet to be mentioned are the Wolverines and their star, who missed most of last season with a foot injury but is still a projected first round pick in next summer’s NBA Draft. He dominates the ball, using just a hair under 30% of the Wolverines possessions and has the potential to single-handedly carry the Wolverines through this tournament. That being said, Michigan lost by 16 at home to Xavier last weekend despite 29 from LeVert. He could desperately use a little help from his teammates.

Advocare Classic

  • Favorite: Xavier? Dayton? Iowa? Notre Dame? It was supposed to be Wichita State but the Shockers will be without their heart and soul, point guard Fred VanVleet, and have struggled even with him in the lineup so far this year, already losing by 10 at Tulsa. VanVleet’s absence opens an already wide-open tournament up even more. Candidates for favorite status: Xavier after their big win in Ann Arbor; Dayton, owners of a Tip Off Marathon pasting of Alabama (who is also Xavier’s quarterfinal opponent); and Iowa, fresh off a 28-point massacre of Marquette in Milwaukee last week. Oh, and don’t forget last year’s ACC Tournament champions and Elite Eight participants Notre Dame, who have looked solid despite losing key pieces (Jerian Grant, Pat Connaughton) from that squad.
  • Darkhorse: USC. Hey, remember Andy Enfield? The Dunk City architect at Florida Gulf Coast? He inherited a complete rebuilding job from Kevin O’Neill in at USC and only won 23 games in his first two years in Los Angeles, but this year’s team is 4-0 with wins over feisty Monmouth (who beat UCLA and is also in this Advocare field, opening against Notre Dame) and New Mexico. They first draw the shorthanded Shockers in a great opportunity for a signature win.
Jordan McLaughlin's USC Squad is a Lot Better This Season (USA Today)

Jordan McLaughlin’s USC Squad Is A Lot Better This Season (USA Today)

  • Most on the line: Iowa, Dayton, Wichita State. Just about every team in Orlando, save for Monmouth and Alabama, should be somewhere in the NCAA tournament picture. The Hawkeyes and Flyers face off in Thursday’s last quarterfinal in what is arguably the biggest game of the day. The winner is likely to draw Notre Dame and get a legitimate opportunity at a resume win, while the loser seems probable to face Monmouth, who despite its early season heroics, seems more likely to be an RPI anchor than anything else. The Shockers have a similar problem if they lose their opener to USC and head to the loser’s bracket, where they would most likely face a bottom-of-the-SEC Alabama team.
  • Storyline: How does Wichita State cope with no Fred VanVleet? The senior point guard is potentially the greatest player in the history of Wichita State basketball. No one can step in and capably fill his shoes. Worse yet, the best candidate to do so — freshman Landry Shamet — is out with a foot injury. The Shockers will struggle to replace their floor general, but expect fellow backcourt star Ron Baker to help out with ballhandling duties in VanVleet’s absence.
  • Player to Watch: Ron Baker, G, Wichita State. At least the Shockers still have this guy. The senior shooting guard will have to shoulder more of the load this weekend, but with his shooting ability and veteran experience, Baker may be up to the task. He’s just five of 15 from beyond the arc this year, yet still averages 20 points per game. It’s clear that Baker has figured out ways to score even when his jumper isn’t falling.

Wooden Legacy

  • Favorite: Arizona.  Michigan State has probably looked better this year than any other team in the field, with Denzel Valentine looking like an early favorite for Player of the Year, but the talented Wildcats have also been impressive. Given their relative proximity to home (and easy quarterfinal draw with 0-5 Santa Clara), they get the nod as favorites.
  • Darkhorse: UC Irvine. The Anteaters return most of last season’s 21-win Big West champion that lost by just two points to Louisville in the NCAA Tournament, including 7’6″ Mamadou N’diaye. They’re 4-0 to start this year and have the best effective field goal percentage defense in the country. Russell Turner is an excellent young coach who may not be long for Orange County.
  • Most on the line: Boise State, Providence, Boston College. The Broncos have already eaten a couple early losses, so they’ll want to avoid losing their quarterfinal to the dangerous host Anteaters. BC and Providence are a pair of northeast teams looking to make some hay on the opposite coast. The Eagles begin as a heavy underdog against Michigan State, while Providence has to deal with an Evansville team that is a sneaky threat to contend for the Missouri Valley crown.
  • Storyline: Are we going to get Denzel Valentine against the Sean Miller defense? A final between the Wildcats and Spartans is a game that could easily happen again late in March, and with the relatively weak fields in other Feast Week tournaments, this is the best potential matchup of the holiday weekend. Valentine is averaging nearly a triple-double to start the season (15.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, 9.8 assists); seeing him go up against a defense that has finished first and third in adjusted efficiency the last two seasons (and is 7th so far this years) would be a treat.
  • Player to Watch: Kris Dunn, G, Providence. As good as Valentine is, he might not be the best player in this tournament. That title could belong to Dunn, a preseason All American who nearly had the first ever quadruple double against a Division 1 basketball team this week: 22 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists and 7 steals in a PC win over NJIT. The potential top ten pick does it all for the Friars.
Andrew Gripshover (15 Posts)

Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *