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Michigan heads to Bahamas for best early tournament in college basketball

mlive.com — Andrew Kahn mlive.com

Nov. 25--Michigan's men's basketball team will spend its Thanksgiving competing in the best November tournament in college basketball.

The Battle 4 Atlantis, held in Nassau, Bahamas, does not always draw the most impressive field relative to the other tournaments, but it did this year.

Four of the eight participants are ranked in the top-13 of the latest AP poll.

Michigan (4-0, unranked in the polls but No. 24 on kenpom.com) faces Iowa State on Wednesday (noon ET, ESPN), will play either Alabama or North Carolina on Thanksgiving, and close with one of our possible opponents on Friday.

The tournament should be a good early-season barometer for the Wolverines (more on that to come here on MLive.com).

Here's a closer look at the field.

Iowa State

Record: 3-1

KenPom ranking: 45

The Cyclones, out of the Big 12, lost their only game so far against a top-100 KenPom opponent: a six-point loss at Oregon State. Michigan will familiar with leading scorer Rasir Bolton, who played for Penn State as a freshman last season. Iowa State has balanced scoring, with seven players averaging between 7.3 and Bolton's 12.5 points per game.

Head coach Steve Prohm, who's in his sixth season, took Iowa State to the NCAA Tournament last season, where it lost as a 6 seed to Ohio State in the first round.

(Please return to MLive.com for a more in-depth look at Iowa State before Wednesday's matchup with Michigan.)

No. 6 North Carolina

Record: 4-0

KenPom ranking: 7

Michigan and North Carolina could meet for a third straight season. The Tar Heels are off to a fast start, having defeated fellow ACC member Notre Dame in the opener and handling three in-state foes since, including UNC Wilmington on the road.

North Carolina lost the bulk of its Sweet 16 team from a season ago, but freshman Cole Anthony, the No. 4-ranked player in his class, has been as good as advertised. The 6-foot-3 point guard scored 34 against Notre Dame and is averaging 22.8 points, eight rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game while shooting 38 percent from 3.

As is typical of Roy Williams' teams, these Tar Heels play fast and dominate the glass.

Alabama

Record: 2-2

KenPom ranking: 78

First-year head coach Nate Oats has Michigan ties, having spent 11 years as the coach at Romulus High School. Alabama hired him after four seasons at Buffalo, culminating with last year's 32-4 mark.

Oats lost four players to transfer and the transition has not gotten off to a great start. Alabama lost its opener at home to Penn and also lost by 14 at Rhode Island. The Crimson Tide's game against Carolina will be a track meet, as Alabama has the second-fastest pace in the country. Sophomore guard Kira Lewis Jr., who'd considered transferring, leads the team with 21.5 points and five assists per game.

No. 8 Gonzaga

Record: 6-0

KenPom ranking: 5

Gonzaga has played just one top-100 team so far, Texas A&M on the road, and won 79-49. The Bulldogs, albeit with some new faces, look loaded once again.

Mark Few's squad earned a 1 seed in last year's NCAA Tournament and reached the Elite Eight, losing to Texas Tech two days after Michigan had suffered the same fate. The top four scorers from that team are gone. Six players are averaging double figures so far this season.

That includes sophomore Killian Tillie, who missed the first four games with an injury. The 6-foot-10 forward gives Gonzaga even more size and skill.

Southern Miss

Record: 2-3

KenPom ranking: 229

The weak link in this field, Southern Miss goes to the Bahamas looking for its first win of the year against a Division I opponent. Their three losses have all come on the road: against South Alabama, North Florida, and Iowa State, 73-45.

Jay Ladner, previously at Southeastern Louisiana, is in his first year as head coach. His Golden Eagles have made just 19 3-pointers on the year (just three teams that have played at least five games have made fewer).

No. 13 Seton Hall

Record: 4-1

KenPom ranking: 7

Seton Hall's only blemish was a three-point home loss to Michigan State on Nov. 14. The Pirates have otherwise not been seriously tested. That will change in Atlantis, where they'll appear in a top-15 matchup on Wednesday.

Senior guard Myles Powell is a national Player of the Year candidate. He's averaging 22.6 points per game and shooting 42 percent from 3.

No. 11 Oregon: 5-0

Record: 5-0

KenPom Ranking: 16

Head coach Dana Altman overhauled his roster in the offseason. Only three of this season's contributors played for Oregon last year. That trio includes senior point guard Payton Pritchard, who leads the Ducks with 19.4 points per game. The next three top scorers are transfers.

Anthony Mathis (a grad transfer from New Mexico) has made 20 of his 31 3-point attempts. Shakur Juiston (UNLV) has been effective inside.

The roster has come together nicely so far, as Oregon holds wins over Memphis and Houston.

More Michigan basketball content:

In prep for paradise, Michigan runs Houston Baptist out of gym

'It's inspiring': unheralded Michigan basketball players make most of moment

Franz Wagner injury update: still no timeline for Michigan debut

Michigan basketball recruiting: early signing period ends without Isaiah Todd

Michigan basketball has 15 leaders but no captains

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