UMass to compete in Battle 4 Atlantis tournament
While the Massachusetts football team announced its move to the Mid-American Conference and to the Football Bowl Subdivision, the men's basketball team made its own declaration.
Over Thanksgiving break later this year, the Minutemen will compete in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas - a competition that is not unlike the Maui Invitational tournament they competed in last season.
Joining the Minutemen for this tournament will be national champion Connecticut, Florida State, Utah, Harvard, Central Florida, College of Charleston and North Carolina-Asheville.
"It's an unbelievable opportunity to go against some of the top teams of the country and to be together as a family, as a basketball family, on Thanksgiving," said UMass coach Derek Kellogg. "It's a perfect opportunity. The setup they have down there rivals some of the best tournaments that are going, which is really the Maui tournament."
According to Kellogg, UMass was poised to compete in another tournament down in Cancun, Mexico. However, after plans fell through, Kellogg enlisted the team in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
"I saw that the Bahamas tournament was looking for participants [and liked] the proximity of travel, the teams that are going to be in the tournament and the time of the year," said Kellogg.
For a Minutemen side that was finished after the first round of the Atlantic 10 playoffs, competition against the national champion Huskies and other NCAA tournament-level teams won't be an easy task.
"It's going to give us a chance early in the season to see how we stack up against ... one of the best teams in the country and other teams that are NCAA tournament teams or close," said Kellogg. "So we'll know right away where we stand as far as some of the best teams in the country."
Additionally, the tournament will give UMass the opportunity to build its RPI, which will become a large factor when the 68-team national tournament starts sending out invitations.
More than just a competitive event, Kellogg explained that the trip will act as an opportunity for team-bonding. With veteran players Anthony Gurley, Gary Correia and Hashim Bailey graduating, the Minutemen will be looking to reconstruct a relatively young squad.
"Not only are we going to play against some really great teams, but it'll be a great team-building experience," said Kellogg. "We're going to be together for five days, we're going to be traveling to an island in the middle of the ocean and we're going to be together over the holidays, which I think can be a really great team building thing.
"As long as we play well and compete, it can help springboard us a little bit and get us ready for conference play," said Kellogg.
This past season, a majority of Kellogg's work in the preseason was to bring in fans, including Mission 1,000. While Kellogg doesn't expect fans to flood into the Bahamas to watch the team play, he hopes some will be able to make it out.
"I think it's a good time to get fans there," said Kellogg. "I think it's a good opportunity for people who have time after work. I'm not expecting 10,000 fans to go, but if we could get 100 or a couple hundred fans to go, that'd be great."
Kellogg also said that the program might try to create package deals for fans aspiring to go to the tournament. The package could possibly include a charter flight, hotel rooms and tickets to the game.