Months before the fields for most of next year's holiday tournaments are revealed, it's already safe to say which one will be the strongest.
The Battle 4 Atlantis clinched that honor Tuesday with the announcement of an eight-team field rife with marquee programs.
National powers North Carolina, UCLA and Florida headline the 2014 incarnation of an event that has quickly emerged as one of the premier tournaments on the college hoops calendar. Recent Final Four teams Butler (2010, 2011), Georgetown (2007), Oklahoma (2002) and Wisconsin (2000) also will participate in the tournament, as will a UAB team that is on the rise under second-year coach Jerod Haase.
That the Battle 4 Atlantis was able to draw such a loaded field reflects its desire to unseat the Maui Invitational as the most prestigious holiday tournament. In the first few years of its existence, the Battle 4 Atlantis has drawn the likes of UConn, Duke, Louisville and Kansas to the Bahamas.
One of the advantages the Battle 4 Atlantis provides marquee programs is a shorter, less expensive flight than Maui offers. The Maui Invitational and other top tournaments were able to counteract that with their partnership with ESPN, but the Battle 4 Atlantis just signed a multi-year deal with ESPN that begins in 2014, ensuring its games will be spread to wider audiences than NBC Sports Network could provide.
Don't cry too hard for the Maui Invitational, however, because it's unlikely to go the way of the Great Alaska Shootout anytime soon. The 2014 Maui field was announced last week and includes Arizona, Misouri, Pittsburgh, BYU, San Diego State, Kansas State, Purdue and host Chaminade.