Women’s basketball set to participate in first women’s Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament


Photo by John Steppe

Megan Duffy congratulates her team for its 57-52 win over Villanova

In 2019, there were a lot of firsts for Marquette women’s basketball. Now, to start off the 2020 season, another first is queued up for the Golden Eagles: participating in the inaugural Women’s Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament.

“It being the first-ever, you always want to be the first to do something,” redshirt junior forward Lauren Van Kleunen said. “It is a great opportunity and going to be huge, not just for Marquette, but for women’s basketball as well.”

The Atlantis resort in Paradise Island, Bahamas announced Nov. 29 that the Men’s Division 1 Basketball Thanksgiving Weekend Tournament would be adding a women’s tournament preceding the men’s weekend in the Bahamas beginning in 2020.

Marquette’s involvement in the event began around the time head coach Megan Duffy was named the program’s sixth head coach.

“When I first got the job, the organizers for Battle 4 Atlantis reached out to me and said, ‘Hey we are starting this women’s side … and was like would you like to be a part of it?’,” Duffy said. “I told them ‘Yeah, let me call you back in a quick second’ and went over to go talk to our administration.”

Marquette’s administration was on board with the news.

“Our administration was awesome,” Duffy said. “They were like, ‘If you can be one of the first teams and be the only BIG EAST invited you absolutely have to do it.'”

The 12-game, three-day tournament will take place Nov. 21-23 with some of the country’s best programs.

“We are thrilled to be a part of it,” Duffy said. “It can be a tournament that has the potential to be one of the best in the season.”

Besides Marquette, those among the 2020 field will be No. 1 South Carolina, No. 3 Oregon, Central Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma, South Florida and Syracuse.

During its nonconference schedule for this year, Marquette took on then-No. 10 Mississippi State and BIG 10 powerhouse Northwestern.

“I really am big on nonconference and to do it on a neutral floor is big as well,” Duffy said. “There are a couple of key themes when it comes to nonconference. You want to play different styles of teams that will get you ready for conference (play).”

Duffy said the second theme to a nonconference schedule is securing wins.

“Getting quality wins helps one’s RPI in nonconference as well,” Duffy said. “To be able to do that in one setting, three days in a row with a lot of basketball is really really important.”

For players like Van Kleunen, playing a challenging nonconference schedule shows the trust the coaching staff has in its players going against top talent.

“With nonconference, you want to play the teams you want to play in March,” Van Kleunen said. “It is a test to our team and for Coach Duffy to believe in us to play against these teams (and) win against them, too, is big.”

The former Notre Dame point guard said these “tropic” trips bring excitement to the program as a whole.

“Just to play in a place like Atlantis, not everyone has the opportunity to do that,” Duffy said. “To put three straight days of competition along with that is tremendous.”

Duffy said playing in an event like this helps the recruiting process as well.

“We always get a lot of questions of what will your nonconference look like, who are you playing, where are you playing,” Duffy said. “We have already started to talk to some recruits about trips like this and it is pretty exciting.”

It is still too early to see who will be the network provider of the tournament, Duffy said there were talks with ESPN since they are the provider for the men’s tournament, but she is unsure if a deal was set into place.

There is one thing Duffy hopes for come November: a sea of Marquette fans filling up Atlantis Paradise Island.

“We will probably open it up to our fans and alums,” Duffy said. “It is going to be an overall really cool experience.”

This article was written by John Leuzzi. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JohnleuzziMU.