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Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament Recap: Villanova stays undefeated, shocks everybody

Villanova came out on top during the Thanksgiving holiday. The Wildcats improved to 7-0 and beat two AP Top-25 teams (No. 2 Kansas and No. 23 Iowa) in the process. James Bell was named Tournament MVP.

It's a Celebration- Rick James
It's a Celebration- Rick James
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Villanova has been known to do a few things right over their storied career in the Big East Conference. Play small ball. Hustle for every loose ball. And perpetually be known as "Giant Slayers."

And the Wildcats did just that over the Thanksgiving break holiday. The team's three game tournament appearance produced an early season championship and the slaying of two AP Top-25 teams, one being an Andrew Wiggins-led Kansas squad, the other, a well-balanced and long range striking Iowa team. Both fell in fantastic fashion.

The only problem with the early season championship was that Wright didn't wear a single suit. Maybe it's good luck.

Villanova played Andy Enfield's USC squad, a very competitive Kansas team, and won the championship over Iowa late in overtime. James Bell was named the tournament MVP as well as the All-Tournament team with JayVaughn Pinkston. Ryan Arcidiacono was awarded "Best Costume" for his rendition of Rick James in his latest single "Cold Blooded," due to the ice water flowing through his veins.

This one's for the kids.

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Against USC & Enfield's model wife

Villanova got out early in their opening matchup and defeated Southern Cal, 94-79, in the process setting a new record for points scored at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. It was the smooth guard play of Head Coach Jay Wright's club that pushed the Wildcats over the hump in the first half against the Trojans.

As usual, it was the 'Cats perimeter shooting that allowed them to jump out to such a strong lead and never look back. Villanova shot 37.9 percent from deep and five Wildcats scored in double digits. The most impressive thing that came from the game was Dylan Ennis returning to the team and scoring 14 points from a reserve position, mainly on perimeter buckets. Ennis was 4-for-5 from the field and it was his first game since March 2012 when he still played for Rice.

The Wildcats hustle plays and overbearing energy was one of the deciding factors of the game. James Bell led the team in scoring with 17 points. Oh yeah and he and Arch connected on one of these doozies.

(From the homies at VUHoops)


Against No. 2 Kansas

Alright, if you didn't see the Rick James video earlier, than you just won't understand anything that's about to happen next.

Villanova has a habit of knocking off nationally ranked teams on their way to great regular season finishes. Just ask Syracuse and Louisville last season. This time around, the Wildcats made it clear that they deserved to be in the Top-25. They took a top-3 NBA draft prospect out of the game early (flu or not) and re-introduced the world to Neshaminy's greatest baller since...well...ever?

With ten seconds remaining, Arcidiacono scored the go ahead bucket from deep to help the Wildcats win 63-59 over Kansas. Four Wildcats scored in double figures and to add insult to injury, Ennis was perfect from beyond the arc (3-for-3) and led the team with 14 points. Again.

This was the first game where size started to prove to be a problem against Wright's small ball formations. Kansas' Perry Ellis, Joel Embiid and Tarik Black left their marks early in the contest but were slowed down by foul trouble, most likely due to Daniel Ochefu's help in the defensive rotation (this would be maybe the only thing he did right in the entire tournament).

The Wildcat defense swarmed the Jayhawks the entire game. The 'Cats held Wiggins to an atrocious 10 points on seven shots. Another 2014 NBA prospect, Wayne Selden Jr., was also kept quiet. He would only record two points during the game. Villanova pulled out the win and Radnor went crazy.

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Against No. 23 Iowa

For as long as anyone watching this game could remember, it made no sense how Villanova stayed so close throughout the game. It was ugly for the entire first half and Iowa's momentum poured into the opening minutes of the second half. But the Wildcats opted not to play Ochefu in the closing set and rested the defensive responsibility on a five guard set that would end up outrebounding a physical Hawkeye frontcourt, 48-36, the sixth time in seven games Villanova did that.

Villanova found its groove from three consecutive Bell deep connections and glided past Iowa in overtime to win the Battle 4 Atlantis Championship, 88-83. Bell's phenomenal shooting helped him finish with 24 points (6-for-14 shooting), nine rebounds and two blocks. Freshman guard, Josh Hart, added 16 points and five boards of his own.

But Iowa tested the Wildcats until the buzzer. They forced 12 first half turnovers and pushed 'Nova to cough the ball up 20 times on Saturday night. A third of Iowa's points came from turnovers in the first half.

Though Bell's superior shooting and Pinkston's tough interior play (14 points, 7 rebounds and was the only big man on the floor in the second half) carried the Wildcats, the main players on the floor came from the bench.

I think the #BenchMobb can describe this one pretty well. (From VUHoops)


For the majority of the tournament, the effort from the reserves combined with exuberant play from almost everyone on the floor, consistently, won the trio of games for the Wildcats. The squad out hustled what many fans and analysts (NBC Sports, cough, cough) thought would be an untouchable Kansas team. They did the same thing against Iowa.

With Ochefu taking an early seat due to a technical foul, Hart, Jenkins and Ennis saw a bulk of minutes in the rotation next to Pinkston who played at the five-spot. Five wildcats finished in double digit numbers, and for once, the duo of freshman off the bench benefitted from the extra minutes. Hart dove for rebounds and loose balls and kept plays alive down the stretch of the game.

And though Arcidiacono had been questionable during the tournament, he made multiple clutch shots, not only against Kansas, but late against Iowa coming off double ball screen around the arc. He finished with 13 points with three assists and collected four boards.

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Chris Cash and his "Down South Dougie" explain the feelings of every Nova fan, student and supporter. Plain and simple. Big East: "If you ain't talking money I don't wanna talk."

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Player Grade Comments
Ryan Arcidiacono B- Arch played pretty bad for most of the tournament to be completely honest. He was 1-for-6 with 4 points against Kansas, he was memorable for his big shot to win the game. He did score 14 points in 28 minutes against USC but only had 13 points in 36 minutes against Iowa in the championship game. He wasn't horrible, but he wasn't great.
James Bell B- The tournament MVP didn't play as well for the three game stretch in the Bahamas as we'd like to think. He missed ten shots against USC (8-for-18, 17 points, 1-for-8 from deep) and was shut down from everywhere against Kansas (10 points in 31 minutes, 0-for-5 from deep). But a more-efficient performance against Iowa in the Championship game saves his bacon. Can't replace it.
JayVaughn Pinkston B

JVP had quite a tournament for himself. He averaged 13 points in the three games but his defense when Ochefu left the game is the reason his presence was the most needed. He shot 50 percent from the floor against the Hawkeyes. He made the All-Tournament Team, so there's that.

Darrun Hilliard C Outside of a dominant performance against Southern Cal, Hilliard was more trouble than he was helpful for the Wildcats. Against USC he put up 16 points on 5-for-8 shooting in 25 minutes, other than that he combined for 6-for-15 for 19 points in 57 minutes against the last two teams in the tourney. Weak.
Josh Hart B- He only scored 10 points combined against USC and Kansas, but if Hart brings one thing to the floor that no other plan can in bulk it's hustle, grit and grind. He extended plays, dove for loose balls and kept 'Nova in games.
Daniel Ochefu C- Ochefu was hurting the Wildcats in every game after USC. Against Iowa he was held to one rebound and four blocks in eight minutes. His defense is impressive. But foul trouble and a lack of offensive production earns him a quick seat.
Tony Chennault C+ Not good, not bad. Played his role for the entire tournament. Didn't see more than 16 minutes at any time in the Bahamas.
Dylan Ennis A- His first appearance in a Wildcat uniform and he's one of the main reasons they played like a top-25 team. 14 points against USC. 14 points against No. 2 Kansas. But only eight points against Iowa in 23 mintues. Let's be honest, we didn't think he'd be this good, this fast.

Kris Jenkins

B Jenkins came up clutch against Iowa without Ochefu playing and he getting a load of minutes. 12 points in 22 minutes and some great defense down the stretch against the Hawkeyes, paid dividends. He didn't score against Kansas, but was perfect from deep against USC.
Coach Grade Comments
Jay Wright C First off, Jay didn't wear a suit. That's not how you get brownie points with me Jay. But even though Coach Wright left the Gucci at home, his team didn't seem to click at many times during the game. Against Iowa, the play was sloppy for an entire half. Kansas was allowed to make big runs at the end of the game after being held down for a majority of the contest. The perimeter defense was horrible. There were too many missed opportunities during the tournament. And, frankly, a lot of low IQ shots along the perimeter and bad decision making as a whole. The Wildcats squeaked by three out of the four teams they've just played (Delaware, Iowa, Kansas). Some changes still need to be made, but the team is in god shape for the month of December.