Gonzaga draws Southern Miss in Battle 4 Atlantis opener

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Southern Mississippi will be Gonzaga’s first-round opponent at the Battle 4 Atlantis.

Pairings were released Thursday for the holiday tournament at Paradise Island, Bahamas. The Zags and Golden Eagles meet at 4 p.m. PST Wednesday, Nov. 27, on ESPNU. The GU-Southern Miss winner/loser matches up with the Seton Hall/Oregon winner/loser on Thanksgiving Day.

The other side of the bracket features North Carolina against Alabama and Michigan vs. Iowa State.

The eight-team tournament has a strong field, including No. 7 Gonzaga, No. 8 North Carolina and No. 14 Seton Hall in ESPN’s latest preseason rankings. Five teams – No. 8 Gonzaga, No. 13 Seton Hall, No. 14 North Carolina, No. 22 Oregon and No. 24 Michigan – are in SI.com’s rankings.

Iowa State lost in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament while Alabama dropped its NIT opener.

The Zags and Tar Heels square off Dec. 18 at the McCarthey Athletic Center, prompting Battle 4 Atlantis organizers to put the two on opposite sides of the bracket.

The last two Atlantis champions, Villanova in 2017 and Virginia last season, went on to claim NCAA titles.

Southern Miss (20-13 overall) was 11-7 and tied for second place in Conference USA last season after being picked to finish seventh. The Golden Eagles lost to Longwood 90-68 in their College Basketball Invitational opener.

Head coach Doc Sadler left the program in April to become an assistant for Fred Hoiberg at Nebraska. Southeastern Louisiana coach Jay Ladner, a former Golden Eagles’ player, was hired to replace Sadler a week later.

The Golden Eagles lose guards Cortez Edwards and Tyree Griffin, both second team All-Conference USA selections as seniors last season. They combined to average 68 minutes, 27 points, 9.5 rebounds and 10.5 assists per game. USM also lost three-year starter Kevin Holland and Dominic Magee, who was sixth in scoring last season.

Guard Ladavius Draine, voted Conference USA’s co-Sixth Man of the Year, is the top returning scorer. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound junior averaged 11.3 points and connected on a team-leading 78 3-pointers at a 46.4% clip. Leonard Harper-Baker, a 6-5 senior forward, averaged 9.5 points and led the team in rebounding (8.0) and blocks (40). Tim Rowe, a 6-11 senior forward, averaged 5.4 points and 2.6 boards.

The Zags went 2-1 in their first appearance at the Battle 4 Atlantis in 2015 with wins over Washington and Connecticut sandwiched around a loss to Texas A&M.

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