In 2012, the Battle 4 Atlantis featured five preseason top 25 teams and six eventual NCAA tournament teams including Elite Eight-bound Duke and national champion Louisville.
Somehow, someway, this year's field might be even better.
Battle 4 Atlantis favorites Wisconsin, Florida and North Carolina should each begin the season ranked in the top 10 in most polls. UCLA and Oklahoma have a chance to join them in the Preseason Top 25. Georgetown and Butler have legitimate NCAA tournament hopes, while only rebuilding UAB looks a bit out of place in a field of juggernauts.
No team was ever going to have an easy path to the title given how loaded the field is, but a few things jump out in the wake of ESPN releasing the full bracket Tuesday morning.
• The UCLA-Oklahoma quarterfinal is almost certainly going to be the most intriguing opening round game in any holiday tournament next season. The Bruins lost first-round draft picks Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams and Zach LaVine from last year's Pac-12 tournament champion and Sweet 16 team, but they replenished their roster with a frontcourt-heavy recruiting class highlighted by McDonald's All-Americans Kevon Looney and Thomas Welsch. Those kids will be tested immediately by an experienced Oklahoma team that brings back four starters from an NCAA tournament team including leading scorer Buddy Hield and leading rebounder Ryan Spangler.
• Of the three potential top 10 teams in the field, Florida received by far the hardest draw. Not only do the Gators draw a quality Georgetown team in the quarterfinals, their reward for winning would also almost certainly be a date with a WIsconsin team that brings back all but one rotation player from a squad that reached the Final Four last year. Neither the Badgers nor Tar Heels have it easy, but at least they both caught a break apiece in the draw. Wisconsin got the least formidable opening-round opponent on paper in UAB, while North Carolina avoids either the Gators or Badgers until a potential title game.
• There will be no shorage of star power in this field. Wisconsin boasts a pair of All-American candidates in senior center Frank Kaminsky and junior forward Sam Dekker. North Carolina has one of its own in guard Marcus Paige. Florida has talented but unproven NBA prospect Chris Walker, UCLA boasts a wealth of promising freshmen and Oklahoma has a pair of underpublicized stars in Spangler and Hield. Heck, even Georgetown and Butler have players worthy of attention. D'Vauntes Smith Rivera of the Hoyas is a Big East player of the year threat, while Kellen Dunham is one of the nation's elite shooters and Roosevelt Jones was Butler's best player before suffering a season-ending injury last summer.
Add it all up and two things are clear: The Battle 4 Atlantis is absolutely loaded and for the second time in three years, it is easily college basketball's most compelling holiday tournament.
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