Iowa Looking To Win Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament
By Scott Dochterman and Josh Christensen, Reporters
PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas A makeshift basketball court was set on atop of a coral-themed carpet at the Atlantis complex, but Iowa's men's basketball team had no problems adjusting to the floor or the magnificent surroundings at practice Wednesday afternoon.
The Hawkeyes (5-0) took in the wondrous sights of Mexico last November and Europe during the summer. The Bahamas' beauty seems almost old hat to Iowa's players, who are more concerned with their next three opponents than the ocean.
"Coach (Fran McCaffery) emphasizes that we're not coming down here for a vacation; we're coming down here for a business trip," Iowa senior Zach McCabe said. "This is a huge opportunity for us, coming in the Battle 4 Atlantis and how big of a tournament it is, all the elite teams here. It's our time to make a statement and this is a place we could do it."
"We're not here to go on water slides," McCaffery said.
That singular focus is necessary for Iowa not only to win but compete at Battle 4 Atlantis. The eight teams are a combined 33-4 this year, and one of losses was a game involving two tournament teams. Two teams are ranked No. 2 Kansas and No. 23 Iowa but three others are receiving votes.
Good teams could lose two or three games at this tournament based on the competition. Iowa faces 5-0 Xavier at 6 p.m. (NBC Sports Network) and then follows with either Tennessee (3-1) or UTEP (3-2) on Friday. If the Hawkeyes advance to the tournament finals, they're likely to face Kansas.
"I think every team that's here recognizes that no matter what we've done until now this is going to be different," McCaffery said. "It's a different kind of venue the caliber of teams are better. I think it will be a great challenge."
"Our goal is to go 3-0," McCabe said. "It's not going to be a damper if we end up losing a game, but it's just something we can learn from. I think playing these teams just shows what we can do and what we need to do in the future."
Iowa and Xavier have a common opponent in Abilene Christian, which Iowa beat by 62 and Xavier blasted by 28. Xavier also boasts a quality win against Tennessee, which will play either the Muskateers or the Hawkeyes on Friday.
Xavier has one of the nation's best player in 6-foot-3 sophomore shooting guard Semaj Christon. Few players score in bunches like Christon, who has posted double-digit points in 24 consecutive games. He was named the Atlantic-10's Rookie of the Year last year and was named a freshman All-American. He averaged 15.2 points a game last year and is up to 16.4 points and 5.0 assists per outing this season.
McCaffery said he's concerned with Christon because of his versatility. Christon rarely shoots from 3-point range, hitting just two in four attempts this year.
"He's dangerous every time he's got the ball," McCaffery said. "He goes at any time, he knows how to play on ball screens, he knows how to play with space. He gets the ball to the basket. He gets to the free-throw line. He's not a great 3-point shooter; everybody knows that. But he has an incredible knack for getting open. So he's going to test our team defense, not just whoever's guarding him."
Devyn Marble will play opposite of Christon, which could provide a highlight match-up. Marble, a 6-foot-6 senior, averages 14.6 points and 3.8 assists a game. Marble plays three positions but will start at off-guard in the tournament. He'll likely draw Christon when Iowa is in man-to-man defense.
"He's a quick, fast guard," Marble said. "Always looking to attack. You've got to get guys underneath him so you've got to make sure you guard him properly. If we can contain him and keep him out of rhythm in transition, we can be OK."
Xavier also has a veteran center in 6-10 Matt Stainbrook, who averages 10.2 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks a game.
"He's skilled. He's tough. He's way more athletic than he looks," McCaffery said. "I think he's a great fit for their team and how they play. He gives them another dimension, another challenge for Adam Woodbury."
The Hawkeyes know they're facing three stronger opponents in the Bahamas than they did in their first five games at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. But their aspirations remain high, and winning is paramount.
"We want to win it," Marble said. "We feel we're one of the best teams if not the best team here. We feel we can compete for championships, regardless of the tournament. That's the mindset coming in. We came here to win the whole thing."
OGLESBY WORKING HIS WAY BACK
Iowa junior guard Josh Oglesby no longer wears a walking boot and is practicing on a limited basis. He's shooting jumpers in practice and is working on his cardio, McCaffery said.
"Josh is progressing fine," McCaffery said. "He's still a few weeks away."
Oglesby, who stands 6-6, had surgery Nov. 9 to repair a broken bone in his right foot. He was slated to miss six-to-eight weeks. Oglesby has started seven games and played in 72 in his first two years at Iowa.
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