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Previewing the Battle 4 Atlantis: Game times, bracket, television, team breakdowns

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Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Full Schedule:

Nov. 23
Game 1: Wichita State vs. LSU -- Noon, ESPN2
Game 2: Baylor vs. VCU -- 2:30 p.m., ESPN2
Game 3: Michigan State vs. St. John's -- 7 p.m., AXS TV
Game 4: Louisville vs. Old Dominion -- 9:30 p.m., AXS TV

Nov. 24:
Game 5: Winner of Game 2 vs. Winner of Game 3 -- Noon, ESPN
Game 6: Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 4 -- 2:30 p.m., ESPN
Game 7: Loser of Game 2 vs. Loser of Game 3 -- 7 p.m., AXS TV
Game 8: Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 4 -- 9:30 p.m., AXS TV

Nov. 25:
Third-Place Game -- 1 p.m., ESPN
Championship Game -- 3:30 p.m., ESPN
Fifth-Place Game -- 7 p.m., AXS TV
Seventh-Place Game -- 9:30 p.m., AXS TV

Full Bracket:

Team Breakdowns:

NO. 24 MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS (2-2)

Coach: Tom Izzo (22nd season)

Ken Pom Rank: 29

Season to Date:

Lost to No. 10 Arizona (65-63)
Lost to No. 2 Kentucky (69-48)
Beat Mississippi Valley State (100-53)
Beat Florida Gulf Coast (78-77)

Would Face Louisville: Friday -- Championship/Consolation Bracket

Player to Know: Miles Bridges (FR, F)

Arguably the most talented Michigan State freshman of the Tom Izzo era, Bridges has been the unquestioned bright spot of an otherwise disappointing start for the Spartans. He enters the tournament averaging team highs in points (16.0 ppg), rebounds (9.3 rpg) and blocks (1.5 bpg). Few players in college basketball will produce more highlight reel plays than the explosive 6'7 forward.

General Overview:

After starting the season ranked No. 12, Michigan State has endured a tough opening two weeks of the season that has included a narrow loss to Arizona, a blowout loss to Kentucky, and a game against Florida Gulf Coast in which they needed a little help from the homecourt clock operator to squeeze out a 1-point win.

The issue right now for the Spartans are a combination of youth and a pair of frontcourt injuries to Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter that have left Izzo's team atypically undersized. The result through four games has been a foul-prone team that gets beaten too often off the dribble and leaves too many opposing shooters wide open on the perimeter. In the close-call against FGCU on Sunday, Michigan State was outrebounded (41-29), outscored on second-chance points (24-9), and outscored in the paint (40-22).

The lack of size isn't going to change this week, but the questions about toughness and focus will have to be answered if the Spartans want to leave The Bahamas with three victories.

ST. JOHN'S RED STORM (2-1)

Coach: Chris Mullin (2nd season)

Ken Pom Rank: 89

Season to Date:

Beat Bethune-Cookman (100-53)
Beat Binghamton (77-61)
Lost to Minnesota (92-86)

Would Face Louisville: Friday -- Championship/Consolation Bracket

Player to Know: Marcus LoVett Jr. (FR, G)

The Morgan Park (big ups, Wayne Blackshear ... and Dean Portman from D2) product begins play on Wednesday as the second-highest scoring freshman (24.3 ppg) in the country, trailing only Washington's Markelle Fultz. Though he came off the bench in St. John's first game, he got the start in game two and promptly dropped 23 points in his team's win over Binghamton. He then almost single-handedly kept the Red Storm in the game against Minnesota, exploding for 31 points and five assists.

General Overview:

Chris Mullins' first season at St. John's wound up being one of the most abysmal in the history of the program. The Red Storm lost all but one of their 19 Big East Conference games, and finished the campaign with an overall record of 8-24.

While any significant jump forward for the program likely won't come until next season at the earliest, there is cause for optimism this season in the form of LoVett, fellow freshman guard ShaMorie Ponds (17.3 ppg/7.0 rpg), and junior guard Bashir Ahmed (10.0 ppg/6.3 rpg), who was rated as the No. 2 Junior College transfer in the country last offseason.

The team is small and young, but they'll bring some excitement to all three of their games -- some good, some bad. 

VCU RAMS (3-0)

Coach: Will Wade (2nd season)

Ken Pom Rank: 34

Season to Date:

Beat UNC-Asheville (80-65)
Beat Liberty (64-59)
Beat Binghamton (81-42)

Would Face Louisville: Friday -- Championship/Consolation Bracket

Player to Know: Mo Alie-Cox

JeQuan Lewis is likely this team's best player, but he's still getting over a strained ligament in his non-shooting hand, and Alie-Cox is capable of doing stuff like this:

There's a reason why many people believe he'll choose to play football professionally instead of basketball.

General Overview:

VCU returns the bulk of a team that beat Oregon State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament a year ago, and then nearly knocked off Final Four-bound Oklahoma two days later. The "HAVOC" days are over in name, but Will Wade still likely to press the pace and challenge opponents with pressure man-to-man defense on all areas of the court.

The Rams have been able to maintain consistency over the years thanks in large part to the ability of program veterans to answer the call when asked to step into a larger role. Who exactly that player will be in 2016-17 is hard to gather as junior Justin Tillman scored 14 points in game one, but has missed the last two with a foot injury. This is also perhaps the deepest team in the field, with 10 different players averaging at least 15.3 minutes per game and 4.7 ppg.

Though they appear to have a rough draw here, VCU has a history of thriving in these types of situations. Don't be surprised if they give Baylor all they can handle and wind up leaving the islands with a winning record.

NO. 20 BAYLOR BEARS (3-0)

Coach: Scott Drew (14th season)

Ken Pom Rank: 25

Season to Date:

Beat Oral Roberts (76-61)
Beat No. 4 Oregon (66-49)
Beat Florida Gulf Coast (81-72)

Would Face Louisville: Friday -- Championship/Consolation Bracket

Player to Know: Johnathan Motley (JR, F)

Miami transfer Manu Lecomte currently leads the team in scoring, but it's Motley who has to be dominant in order for the Bears to win this tournament. The versatile 6'10 junior has long been referred to as a future NBA draft pick, and now that Taurean Prince and Rico Gathers have moved on, he finally has his opportunity to justify that hype.

General Overview:

The Bears own one of the most impressive seasons of the young season so far -- a 66-49 throttling of preseason top five Oregon back on Nov. 15.

Baylor lost its leading scorer, rebounder and assist man from last year's 22-win team that was upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Yale, but Scott Drew still believes he has the pieces to build a better squad in 2016-17. Much of that depends on the play of Lecomte (16.7 ppg/7.0 apg), who needs to continue to shine as bright as he has through the season's first two weeks, and Motley, who has been one of the most talented but enigmatic forwards in the Big 12 since he arrived in Waco three years ago.

Seven-foot JuCo transfer Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. has also been a huge blessing for Baylor. The big man enters the tournament shooting 60 percent from the field and averaging a double-double.

While so many teams in this tournament will try and win games with transition baskets and outside shooting, Baylor's superior size and length gives it the chance to wear opponents down with a halfcourt game. The task for the Bears will be slowing down the faster-pace teams like their opening round opponent, VCU.

LSU TIGERS (3-0)

Coach: Johnny Jones (5th season)

Ken Pom Rank: 90

Season to Date:

Beat Wofford (91-69)
Beat Southern Miss (78-61)
Beat North Florida (78-70)

Would Face Louisville: Thursday -- Semifinals/Consolation Bracket

Name to Know: Antonio Blakeney (SO, G)

You probably already know it though. The former U of L commit is making the most of the post-Ben Simmons era, averaging a team-high 18.7 ppg. He's also attempted a team-high 43 shots in just three games.

General Overview:

Coming off a disastrous 2015-16 season which saw them earn more television time than any 18-14 team in the history of college basketball, the Tigers likely need to overachieve this year if head coach Johnny Jones wants to save his job. There's plenty of talent on this roster -- Blakeney is one of four Tigers who come to The Bahamas averaging better than 11.0 points per game -- but talent has never been the issue during the Jones era.

LSU couldn't protect the rim last season, and rarely seemed particularly interested in trying. They allowed their opponents to shoot 45.3 percent from the field, which was abysmal enough to rank them 272nd in Division-I in field goal percentage defense.

The good news if you're a Tiger fan is that no opponent has score more than 70 points in a game yet. The bad news is that LSU has yet to play a team with a pulse. That changes this week, and good or bad, so will our perceptions of Blakeney and company.

WICHITA STATE SHOCKERS (4-0)

Coach: Gregg Marshall (10th season)

Ken Pom Rank: 24

Season to Date:

Beat South Carolina State (85-39)
Beat Long Beach State (92-55)
Beat Tulsa (80-53)
Beat UMES (116-79)

Would Face Louisville: Thursday -- Semifinals/Consolation Bracket

Name to Know: Markis McDuffie (SO, G)

Many wondered how Gregg Marshall could possibly replace the backcourt of Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, who carried Wichita State to one of greatest four year runs any mid-major program has ever known. The initial answer is McDuffie, who was last year's Missouri Valley Conference Rookie of the Year. He hasn't played big minutes yet because of his team's blowout victories, but in their toughest test of the season to date -- an 80-53 beatdown of Tulsa -- he scored 18 points, snagged seven rebounds and dished out four assists in just 26 minutes.

General Overview:

If you told me that Louisville was going to lose once in this tournament and then asked me to predict when it was going to happen, I'd tell you in day two to these guys.

Wichita State lost more from last year than any other team in this field, and yet you could easily make the argument that they've had the most impressive opening two weeks. Though the competition hasn't been lethal, the Shockers are averaging 93.3 ppg on 52.3 percent shooting from the field, and they currently rank 11th in the country with a rebound margin of 115.3. Their 116 point output against Maryland-Eastern Shore was the most any Wichita State team has scored since 1988.

In all, Wichita State has trailed for only 51 seconds in its four games. Its smallest halftime lead has been 10 points, and it has allowed no opponent within 22 points in the final 10 minutes of a game. A wave of tougher competition is coming, but Gregg Marshall is in the process of proving yet again that he's one of the best in the business.

OLD DOMINION MONARCHS (2-0)

Coach: Jeff Jones (4th season)

Ken Pom Rank: 108

Season to Date:

Beat James Madison (62-55)
Beat Richmond (64-61)

Will Face Louisville: Wednesday -- Quarterfinals (9:30 p.m. ET)

Name to Know: Brandan Stith (JR, F)

Foul trouble kept him on the bench for much of the team's win over Richmond, but Stith lit up James Madison to the tune of  23 points and 11 rebounds on 10-of-13 shooting. The son of Monarch assistant and former NBA player Bryant Stith, Brandan was a beast down the stretch for ODU last season, averaging a double-double in conference play.

General Overview:

No team in this tournament wants to slow things down more than Old Dominion, which ranks 350th out of 351 Division-I teams in tempo. The Monarchs worked their halfcourt philosophy to perfection in their two season-opening victories. Of those two wins, the one which means the most to ODU fans is undoubtedly the second, where the Monarchs won at rival Richmond for the first time since 1997.

The ODU offense runs through Stith, who figures to be a double-double machine once again this season. Senior guard Jordan Baker (14.5 ppg), who made a minimal impact in his first three seasons of college ball, has emerged as the team's other main scoring option, while backcourt mate Ahmad Caver (9.5 ppg) has also taken a dramatic step forward as a sophomore.

Old Dominion's style of play gives it such a small margin for error that playing efficiently on offense and frustrating their opponents into uncharacteristic mistakes are two musts for the Monarchs to knock off one of the other seven teams in this field.