Nov. 27, 2013
PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas - A strong test from a cross section of squads representing some of the nation's elite conferences awaits Villanova as it takes part in its first Battle 4 Atlantis here beginning on Thanksgiving Day. USC (4-1 overall, 0-0 Pac 12) is the first opponent on tap Thursday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. (AXS TV, CBS Sports Radio 610 WIP).
"We had a great practice today," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "Now we're going to eat some good healthy food, rest up and get ready to go."
The Battle 4 Atlantis is in its third season and features a field that includes Iowa, Tennessee, Kansas, Wake Forest, UTEP and Xavier. A strong contingent from the Nova Nation accompanied the Wildcats(4-0 overall, 0-0 BIG EAST) to this island resort but the approach for the coaching staff and players is focused on the three games that will take place over a span of 72 hours beginning Thursday.
"We've talked about the fact that this is a great vacations for (the fans)," stated Wright. "and we get to play three games in a row against great competition. We just happen to get to stay in a beautiful resort while doing it. We really want to concentrate on basketball when we are here.
"We felt like we had a good practice today and we're looking forward to tomorrow."
The Trojans and Wildcats have not met since 1975 and have only battled twice in program history. USC is led by first year coach Andy Enfield and features 7-2 Rice transfer Omar Oraby (13.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and junior guard Byron Wesley (19.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg).
For Villanova, the approach is essentially straightforward.
"Any tournament you play in, you come to win," states Wright. "The way you do that is to concentrate on one game at a time. If you come to a tournament thinking about beating whoever you perceive to be the best team, it usually doesn't work well. You have to take care of business. We happen to get a great game in the first round against USC, a team that I think people are sleeping on a little bit. Their center is a tough matchup and Wesley on the perimeter is as tough as any guard here."
Sophomore guard Dylan Ennis has practiced each of the last four days without restriction and is expected to be available for Villanova. The transfer from Rice - who played with Oraby there - missed a month of action after fracturing the third metacarpal bone in his right (shooting) hand during a practice on Oct. 24.
Villanova will face either Kansas or Wake Forest on Friday depending upon Thursday's results. The Jayhawks and Demon Deacons square off in the second game of the afternoon doubleheader on Thanksgiving Day.
"We haven't shot the ball as well as I think we can but we have found ways to win," states Wright. "This tournament will be a great test for us."