First up is 11th-ranked Oregon. Gonzaga, the No. 8 team in the country, could follow. If Seton Hall wins both of those games, Cole Anthony and No. 6 North Carolina may be waiting.
Myles Powell hopes that’s how this week in the Bahamas plays out for the 13th-ranked Pirates.
“These are the moments you dream of,” Seton Hall’s superstar shooting guard said in a phone interview, on the eve of the loaded Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. “We’re thankful to be here and we’re going to seize this opportunity the best we can.”
It will obviously not be easy. Coming off a Sweet 16 bid last year, Oregon is undefeated and already has a victory over No. 16 Memphis. It was picked to win the Pac-12, has a premier point guard in leading scorer and distributor Payton Pritchard and one of the nation’s best shooters in Anthony Mathis. Gonzaga, also undefeated, is considered a Final Four contender and North Carolina remains North Carolina, led by Anthony, a projected top-three NBA draft pick.
“Everything we work for, everything we want, we have in our hands,” Powell said. “Just play our game and prove to everybody what we’ve been saying, that we’re for real.”
The Pirates (4-1) have gotten off to a good start, losing only a three-point game to No. 3 Michigan State, while blowing out their other four opponents. Powell, the Big East Preseason Player of the Year, is averaging a team-high 22.6 points per game. But he has plenty of help, with coach Kevin Willard going 10-deep so far. Seven players average at least 5.6 points per game, with Sandro Mamukelashvili (11.8) and Quincy McKnight (10.8) in double figures.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Willard said. “When you have to play three games in three days, it shows you how to prepare and bounce back, not only emotionally, but physically. I love everything about it.”
Battle 4 Atlantis is just part of a brutal non-conference schedule, which has already included preseason No. 1 Michigan State and will also feature No. 5 Maryland and Iowa State, Willard formulated to challenge his team. The purpose was to make sure the Pirates are ready for the Big East season. This week will show Willard where his team stands before December.
“We’re going to see where we are and where we have to go pretty quickly,” Willard said. “That’s what’s important about playing these games. It’s a big-time tournament with a lot of really good teams and it’s a really big test for us.”