The Tennessee Volunteers basketball team will head down to the Bahamas this week to take part in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. The event features three top 20 ranked teams in Villanova, Arizona and Purdue. North Carolina State Wolfpack, Western Kentucky, Northern Iowa, SMU and Tennessee round out the eight team field.
Vols’ head coach Rick Barnes has his squad 2-0 early in the season, but he knows that his team is about to get a look at some much tougher competition.
“I really am impressed with Purdue. Watching them play — they’ve been together and they’re good,” Barnes began. He noted that the Boilermakers “benefitted greatly” from going to Taiwan this summer to represent the United States in the World University Games. Purdue fell just short of taking the Gold, losing to Lithuania 85-74.
“I’m as curious and as excited as anybody to see how we respond to what’s thrown at us,” Barnes said. The 3rd year head coach of Tennessee noted the obvious bump in competition that the Vols are about to face. “We’re going to be hit with some things — we’re going to be going up against some stronger, more physical teams than we’ve played up to this point.”
Tennessee has faced Presbyterian and High Point, a far cry from what they will see this week. However, Barnes feels prepared.
“At this point in time, we feel like we’ve got enough things in that we need. Whether we face a 2-3, 3-2, 1-3-1 — we think we’ve got that covered. It’s still about us doing what we do and getting better at it,” Barnes said.
When asked about the strength of this field and how it stacks up with some others around the country, Barnes said that the Battle 4 Atlantis was probably the best one going.
“I can’t imagine that there’s any better (tournament) than this one,” Barnes said. “I think these are good for everybody. It gives you an early gauge on where you are and what you need to do. It just allows you to get going, competition-wise.”
The Volunteers enter this tournament healthy, outside of freshman wing Yves Pons. Barnes gave us a quick update on his status.
“I’m concerned about Yves. His ankle is a problem,” Barnes said. “He starts out well in practice, but then you can see it get sore on him. We’re going to have to make a decision on whether or not we just sit him down.”
You can catch the Tennessee-Purdue contest on ESPN2 at noon eastern.