It's tournament time and the inaugural women's Battle 4 Atlantis could bring college basketball fans the first No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup of the season. If not, it will feature a massive upset of one or both of the NCAA championship favorites.
The Battle 4 Atlantis is in its 10th season on the men's side and finally expanded to a women's tournament held at the Atlantis, Paradise Island resort in The Bahamas. The eight-team field includes three teams in the Associated Press top 10, a fourth ranked top-25 and a fifth receiving votes in the poll.
The three days of games begin Saturday and the championship game — likely pitting No. 1 South Carolina against No. 2 Connecticut — is scheduled for Monday. It's also a meeting of great basketball eras on the court.
Add the schedule to your calendar and see where each team stands ahead of the first major tournament of the holiday season. The end of the week is the Baha Mar Hoops Pink Flamingo Championship, a round-robin featuring reigning national champion No. 7 Stanford, No. 3 Maryland, No. 4 Indiana, No. 5 N.C. State, No. 23 South Florida, Washington State (RV) and Miami.
How to watch Battle 4 Atlantis
Nearly all of the holiday tournaments air on Flohoops, including most of Battle 4 Atlantis. The championship and third-place contests are the only ones aired on a broadcast channel. Here is the full bracket.
Game 1: UConn 88, Minnesota 58
Game 2: South Florida 77, Syracuse 53
Game 3: Oregon 98, Oklahoma 93
Game 4: South Carolina 88, Buffalo 60
UConn 60, South Florida 53
South Carolina 80, Oregon 63
Minnesota vs. Syracuse, 5 p.m. ET on FloHoops
Buffalo vs. Oklahoma, 7:30 p.m. ET on FloHoops
Championship game: UConn vs. South Carolina, 12 p.m. ET on ESPN2
Third-place game: South Florida vs. Oregon, 2:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU
Fifth place game, 5 p.m. ET on FloHoops
Seventh place game, 7:30 p.m. ET on FloHoops
No. 1 South Carolina (3-0)
South Carolina is the title favorite for a reason and showed it right out of the gate against then-No. 5 N.C. State. Their defense kept them in it and the offense came through as needed.
Through three games, senior guard Destanni Henderson (15 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 5.2 APG) has led the star-studded cast while shooting 53.8% overall and 63.6% from 3-point range. Forward Aliyah Boston is averaging 3.3 blocks per game. And 11 players are averaging at least a bucket per game. The one downside is freshman guard Raven Johnson, the No. 2 ranked recruit in the class, is out for the season with a left knee injury.
Head coach Dawn Staley stacks her non-conference schedule. In December the Gamecocks will face No. 3 Maryland and No. 7 Stanford ahead of SEC play. This is an experienced group that feels the sting of a last-second Final Four loss. A championship matchup with UConn would be a good test of their will and any major weaknesses with plenty of time to work on them before another meeting, and another title run.
No. 2 Connecticut (1-0)
The Huskies roster is deep even with freshman Saylor Poffenbarger, who enrolled early last January, opting to enter the transfer portal. But as head coach Geno Auriemma posed after their season-opening revenge victory against Arkansas, will they all contribute right away? It was the veterans Christyn Williams and Evina Westbrook who set the Huskies tone early in their one game played so far.
Reigning Naismith Player of the Year Paige Bueckers bounced back from a quiet first quarter to a career-high 34 points in a full 40 minutes. Heralded freshman Azzi Fudd had only seven points on 2-for-5 shooting. With three games in three days, Bueckers’ minutes and Fudd’s production will be key points to watch.
Auriemma called out the team’s "pathetic" defense and “dumb fouls” that forced forwards Aaliyah Edwards and Olivia Nelson-Ododa to the bench. It’s a similar issue to last year’s squad and will get them into trouble against a roster like South Carolina.
Collision Course: No. 1 vs. No. 2
South Carolina and UConn are on course to meet in the tournament’s championship game on Monday in only the second week of the young season.
It’s a rematch of their No. 1 vs. No. 2 meeting on Feb. 8. UConn won, 63-59, in overtime behind Bueckers’ 31 points. She scored the team’s final 13 points, including all nine in overtime, to upset the No. 1 squad. No Husky scored more than eight.
Aliyah Boston led South Carolina with a 17-point, 15-rebound double-double. Guards Destanni Henderson and Zia Cooke each had 11.
They’re scheduled to play again in Columbia, South Carolina, on Jan. 27. And a Final Four or championship meeting is always a possibility. From a fan perspective, a No. 1 versus No. 2 is exactly the way to start a holiday week. For these teams, it's a perfect litmus test for where they stand and how far they have to go over the long season.
No. 9 Oregon (2-0)
The Oregon Ducks are hoping to get past an early injury bug by the time they tip off in the Bahamas. Junior forward Nyara Sabally (right knee), freshman guard Taylor Bigby (left foot), junior guard Endiyia Rogers (broken left hand/arm) and sophomore point guard Te-Hina Paopao have all missed time over the Ducks first two games, wins over Idaho State and Dixie State.
Oregon head coach Kelly Graves told The Oregonian Sabally, who led Oregon in scoring (12.9 PPG) and rebounding (7.3 RPG) in 2020-21, will hopefully be back. Paopao, who played the most minutes (28.4 MPG) averaging 10.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.4 assists, was out for "kind of precautionary" reasons, he said.
Oregon’s non-conference schedule is light so it will need to impress if it meets South Carolina in the second round. But the Pac-12 is a gauntlet — the eight teams that top the Massey Ratings Strength of Schedule are from the conference — so there’s plenty of opportunity for securing NCAA tournament seeding.
No. 23 South Florida (2-1)
South Florida stacked its early non-conference schedule first with the ACC/SEC Challenge (a 52-49 loss to No. 16 Tennessee on Monday) and next weekend at the Baha Mar Hoops Pink Flamingo Championship, where they’ll face No. 7 Stanford on Friday.
South Florida returns its top six scorers from its first AAC tournament title squad, including leading scorer Elena Tsineke and point guard Elisa Pinzan, the conference’s reigning Most Improved Player. The Bulls have the wide open path to a title since UConn left the conference for the Big East, but have never made it out of the second round of the NCAA tournament.
In three games this season they're allowing on average 48.3 points per game. That bodes well for the opener against a completely new Syracuse team. It needs solid resume-builders for March.
(RV) Oklahoma (3-0)
Oklahoma put up an impressive start to the season by beating South Dakota on its home court. Only four teams in the past five seasons have done as much and it was Jennie Baranczyk’s first game as the Sooners head coach. They followed it up with 101-point performance against Arkansas State and the defense forced 28 turnovers against Central Arkansas.
Madi Williams (17.3 PPG, 56.3 FG%, 5 RPG, 3.3 APG through three games), Ana Llanusa (17 PPG) and Taylor Robertson (13 PPG, 43.5 3FG%, 5 RPG) are the key returners from a .500 squad that missed the NCAA tournament.
The Sooners have lost 15 straight games against top-10 opponents, but have a good chance against an injury-filled Oregon team in the opener. It would push them into the rankings and be a good note for the Big 12 team in March.
Syracuse is in the midst of a massive overhaul after 12 players transferred from the program initially without explanation and former head coach Quentin Hillsman was later accused of bullying and “inappropriate behavior.” Hillsman was allowed to resign amid an external review and longtime assistant Vonn Read stepped in as acting head coach.
Syracuse entered the tournament long before any of that was publicly known and when the Orange program was on an upswing. This small-sized roster has only two forwards: Alaysia Styles, a graduate student from Maryland (and previously Cal) and Eboni Walker, who played her freshman season at Arizona State. The rest are listed as guards, including returning starter Priscilla Williams.
There are a lot of questions surrounding the program and very low expectations of being competitive in the ACC. The tournament will be the first glimpse at if they can exceed those expectations following a 28-point conference loss to Notre Dame.
Three hours west of Syracuse, the Buffalo Bulls are perennial mid-major favorites and head coach Felisha Legette-Jack is excited to finally take her team on a warm-weather business trip.
The Bulls opened with a 102-42 win against Canisius and will need a strong showing in the Bahamas to boost their tournament resume. They play through junior guard Dyaisha Fair (24.1 PPG, 5.1 APG, 2.9 SPG), who became the 14th-fasted player in Division I women’s basketball history to reach 1,000 points last season. She was the fifth-highest scorer in Division I last season and will give South Carolina's defense a lot to handle in the first game.
The Bahamas debut is a rematch of the 2018 NCAA Sweet 16, a 79-63 win by the A’ja Wilson-led Gamecocks. It’s the third meeting between the two.
Minnesota was shocked by Jacksonville in its season opener, but has since bounced back against Arizona State, George Washington and American. They’ve mostly been doing it with defense, but found their shot on Wednesday before hitting the air for the Bahamas.
Like most teams on this list, the Gophers are deep with returning talent. Four players are averaging double-digits this early in the season, including senior transfer Deja Winters (North Carolina A&T) off the bench. The Gophers are trying to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since Lindsey Whalen took over and will have plenty of chances at resume-boosting wins in the Big Ten conference schedule.