Battle 4 Atlantis: a recap and analysis

Asheville’s record: 1-2
Overall record: 3-4
Payout: 2 million dollars (in Dr. Evil voice)
A Thanksgiving in the Bahamas: unaffordable for this graduate student.

The Battle 4 Atlantis might be one of the more ridiculous concepts to recently appear in College Basketball, and that’s saying something (aircraft carriers, play-in round, post-season tournaments beside the NIT and NCAA, Dick Vitale in general).  It’s a Thanksgiving weekend tournament being played inside a converted hotel ballroom that happens to be in the middle of an opulent Bahamas resort featuring gambling, water parks, beaches, nightclubs, and more.  I’m sure a fun weekend was had by all.

Basketball-wise, Asheville got a lot of exposure from this tournament, certainly more had the Bulldogs simply played money games vs. Georgia or Ohio State.  This tournament gave us three tv games against three different opponents with three different outcomes.

The first game against UConn turned out slightly better than imagined, although it left many feeling frustrated that the Bulldogs had a chance to win it and came up short.  This mood was not alleviated when UCF beat the Huskies the next day.  Still, losing by 10 to the defending national champion is about as moral a victory as you can get and Asheville should hold their heads high for that one.

College of Charleston posed perhaps the most interesting (and exciting!) game of the tournament, as two good mid-major teams went at it for 40 minutes.  Ultimately Asheville came up short, and while you can argue about the reasons behind the loss it was a close game and provided a better prep session for close games during conference play than double-digit losses to ACC and Big East teams.

Finally, the Utah game surprised no one as the Dogs routed the Utes (what an ‘Ute’ is exactly, I don’t know) by hitting outside shots and driving the paint.

So Asheville comes away 1-2 from a trip to the Bahamas with a steel briefcase full 2 million in small, unmarked bills.  Ok, kidding about the briefcase part. More importantly, Asheville gets much-needed exposure from playing teams that they don’t usually play in an unfamiliar environment.  If this sounds like the NCAA tournament, then you’re correct.  Now it’s back to reality as the Bulldogs face Gardner Webb in Boiling Springs on Tuesday in the Bulldogs’ conference opener.

By the way, if yesterday’s game wasn’t evidence that the Southern and Big South conferences need to have some sort of conference challenge ala the ACC and Big 10, then I don’t know what is.  Just throwing it out there.

College of Charleston 68, Asheville 66

This one hurt.  And if Asheville wants to get out of the bahamas with anything more than a suntan to show for it, this team needs to come together and deliver against Utah tonight.

Unlike UConn, this game was give-and-go from the start.  However, there were similarities: every time UNC Asheville showed some momentum, they let that momentum be taken away by the other team.

There were bright spots here, particularly the Chris Stephenson show, who seems bent on creating a highlight reel out of this tournament/vacation, as well as the outstanding rebounding by Jeremy “Big Country” Atkinson, Stephenson, and Jackson.  Keith Hornsby also continued to astound (for a freshman) with both scoring and rebounding.

JP had 5 assists, but Asheville only had 8 total assists, a number that is much too low if the Bulldogs want to compete at a higher level.  Same with the turnover numbers (16).  I know it’s early and that the only games that really count for Asheville are the three we play the first weekend of March, but if you want to put yourself in a position to win you have to play to win and know when to slide the knife in.

Asheville plays Utah today in the final consolation game.  The game is at 9:30 and I’ll be livetweeting as in previous instances.  I honestly have no idea how this one will turn out but would really like the guys to get a win before they head back to the states.

UConn 73, Asheville 63

There’s no such thing as moral victories in basketball.  A loss is a loss and it goes in the appropriate column.  As former Bulldog Joey Harrell said on the twitters last night, Asheville outscored UConn in the final 37 minutes of the game.  Unfortunately, there are 40 minutes in a game.

However, UNC Asheville has to hold their heads high for a great performance against the number four team in the country.  After UConn came out with a 10-1 run to start the game, it would have been easy to throw one’s hands up and let the game turn into a blowout.  But not when you’re on Eddie Biedenbach’s team.  Asheville played hard and kept the game within a 7-14 point range for much of the rest of the way.

Much of this can be tossed up, as usual, to size differential.  UConn had its way inside the paint on offense and defense, though Jeremy Atkinson and Quinard Jackson made things difficult by going for loose balls and rebounds.  Still, there was a 10 rebound differential in favor of the Huskies which isn’t going to work in your favor in a close game.  The size difference was also noticable on the other side of the floor as the Bulldogs had difficulty driving the lane.  You have to think some of this was mental, as Chris Stephenson absolutely posterized 3 Huskies with about 4 minutes left in the game.

With the inside game unavailable for all practicable purposes, the Bulldogs turned to their three-point game.  “Live by the 3, die by the 3” is a common saying in basketball and it certainly applied here.  The shots eventually fell for the Bulldogs, but it took the larger portion of the first half until Matt Dickey (16 points) drained the Bulldogs’ first three.

There were a lot of things I liked about this game overall, though.  Jeremy Atkinson (14 points) was one board shy of a double double and proved once again why he was such a good JuCo recruit.  Keith Hornsby also showed spark, and Jaleel Roberts (in the few minutes that he played) demonstrated both his strengths (you can’t teach 7-0) and weaknesses (holding on to the ball).

You have to think that Asheville had a chance to win this game, especially when the Bulldogs cut it to 7 early in the second half.  However, the momentum was squandered soon after when Quinard Jackson gave the refs a bit too much lip (at least I think that’s what happened, feel free to correct me) and was whistled for a technical foul.  Regardless of the merits of the earlier call, you have to play the game and let the coaches argue with the officials.  A hard thing to do, but Quinard is a senior and should know better.

Well, this loss will be vacated anyways when the inevitable UConn scandal drops.  In the meantime Asheville faces a good mid-major opponent in College of Charleston today.  Charleston may have lost to UCF yesterday, but they beat Clemson (sound familiar?) just before that and will be no slouch.  Bobby Cremins and Eddie also go way back and it’ll be nice to see them on the court together for possibly the first time since the 1960’s.

Asheville 72, College of Charleston 67.

Asheville 89, Brevard 48

What’s better than scoring 126 points?  Holding your opponent to under 50 points and still beating them by 41 points.

Asheville did exactly what it was supposed to do on Monday night, holding the Brevard Tornados to only 37% shooting the duration of the game.  On the flip side, the Bulldogs sat The lopsided result gave the Bulldogs an opportunity to rest starters, as all but one starter played less than 20 minutes on Monday.  That one exception was Matt Dickey, who played 21 minutes and took the opportunity while he was playing to make every shot he took.  I’ll say that again:  If Matt Dickey shot the ball last night, it went in the hoop.  He was 6-6 from the floor with half of those shots being threes, and 4-4 from the stripe.  Not a bad way to start Thanksgiving break.

The reserves certainly got their minutes up, as Trent Meyer, Keith Hornsby, and Corey Littlejohn each played around 20 minutes.  Jaleel Roberts had some nice plays and is gettting used to the big man role.  He’ll need to, since Asheville got on a plane this morning to head to the Bahamas, where they’ll play at least one team (likely two) that will go to the NCAA tournament this year: UConn and Florida State.  The Bulldogs play three games in three days, which will serve as a nice warmup for tournament play come March.

It looked like the guys were having fun out there last night, with lots of steals and breakaway dunks.  Particular honors go to Matt Dickey, Keith Hornsby, and Jaleel Roberts, w, though I’ll have to catch the complete game replay in case I forgot anyone.

Weekend Update

Asheville plays Brevard College tomorrow afternoon at Kimmel Arena.  It’ll be a nice tuneup before the Bulldogs head to the Bahamas for Thanksgiving, where they’ll play Connecticut, FSU/College of Charleston, and another team as part of the “Battle 4 Atlantis.”

The Brevard preview will post tomorrow.  In the meantime, here are some tidbits to keep you appeased until the big game.

  • Asheville signed 6-5 small forward Sam Hughes out of Greensboro on November 9 as part of the early recruiting period.  Asheville will be losing four players this May in Primm, Dickey, Stephenson, and Jackson (four of your five starters) so that means four scholarships will be available.  One will be taken up by Hughes and another by Thomas Bess, a freshman who’s redshirting this year while he plays baseball.  Fortunately Eddie and co. have done a good job of recruiting good guards (Hornsby, Littlejohn, Meyer) to take over next year so the falloff from losing four seniors.
  • Speaking of Bess, the Gaston Gazette had a nice article on the Cherryville native this week.  Worth a look.
  • The Blue Banner (follow them on Twitter!) has Jeremy Atkinson on the cover this week as part of its coverage of Kimmel Arena and the Carolina game.  Obligatory “Roy comes home to the mountains” story here.  Game recaps (with nice quotes from Matt Dickey and Chris Stephenson) here and here.
  • Mars Hill game recaps by the Citizen-Times and Marty Nicholson.