Presence of Kansas ensures Battle 4 Atlantis will still be compelling

Unlike last year's Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, which featured the eventual national champion and two opening-round matchups between teams that won NCAA tournament games, this year's event lacks the same sizzle.

No team in the field besides prohibitive favorite Kansas is likely to appear in the top 20 in most preseason polls.

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The defending Big 12 champion Jayhawks received a manageable path to the title game in the bracket released Monday, drawing rebuilding but potentially improved Wake Forest in the opening round Thanksgiving afternoon before a matchup with either Villanova or USC the following night. Should the Jayhawks survive the upper half of the bracket unscathed, they would likely see either Tennessee, Xavier or Iowa in the championship game.

The most intriguing matchup of the opening round pits the Hawkeyes and Musketeers, two potential NCAA tournament teams. Iowa returns every key player from last year's 25-13 squad including leading scorers Roy Devyn Marble (15 points) and Aaron White (12.8), while Xavier's inaugural Big East team is highlighted by promising sophomore point guard Semaj Christon.

Even the likely consolation bracket could hold some intrigue if rebuilding USC drops its opening game to Villanova.

A consolation semifinal between USC and Wake Forest would pit Trojans guard J.T. Terrell against his former school and the coach who dismissed him from the program. And should USC and UTEP meet on the final day of the tournament, it unite Tim Floyd with his former school just months after Floyd accused the Trojans of tampering with his star recruit, Isaac Hamilton.

So this year's Battle 4 Atlantis does promise some quality games. It just won't have a star-studded Louisville-Duke final or a must-see VCU-Memphis quarterfinal the way last year's event did.

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