Baylor Bears claim second Battle 4 Atlantis crown in program history

BAYLOR guard James Akinjo (11) celebrates with teammates after defeating Michigan State, winning their second Battle 4 Atlantis title in program history. The No. 6 Bears defeated the Spartans 75-58 in Friday’s championship game at Imperial Arena at the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island. (Tim Aylen/Bahamas Visual Services via AP)


Tribune sports journalist

THE reigning NCAA Division I Men’s National Champion got off to a promising start to the 2021-22 season by winning his second Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis title in program history.

The No. 6 Baylor Bears defeated the Michigan State Spartans 75-58 in Friday’s championship game at Imperial Arena at the Atlantis complex.

The Bears remain undefeated in their two appearances in Battle 4 Atlantis.

Head Coach Scott Drew thanked Complete Sports Management for continuing its tradition of hosting one of the toughest tournaments on the NCAA’s annual schedule and ensuring its players enjoyed a unique celebration at the Bahamas.

Prior to the trophy presentation, the tournament champions had the opportunity to join in a junkanoo rush on center court.

“The post-game celebration – I really wanted those guys to be a part of it because the first time around I was blown away by how cool it was. They even got some of our older coaches dancing with the music. I couldn’t be happier and prouder of these guys,” Drew said. “Lea Miller-Tooley and Battle 4 Atlantis are a first-class operation.”

Down 36-31 in the first half, Baylor rode a dominant 32-10 run and improved to 7-0 on the season. MSU has an all-time record of 4-2 in two trips to the Bahamas for the tournament.

“We are what I thought we were. It takes great tenacity to win three games in three days [playing against] different styles,” Drew said of his team. “They were mature all the time, focused, they treated it like a business trip, now we can go down the slides and have fun, hopefully none of us older guys get hurt. They were humble servants, they played for each other.

Baylor leads the all-time series with Michigan State 2-0 and both games were played in the Battle 4 Atlantis.

Two of the last three tournament winners have also won the NCAA national championship (2017-18 Villanova and 2018-19 Virginia).

Drew said he hopes his program can continue this trend as it tries to repeat itself.

“As teams and coaches, we want to be challenged. Winning three games in three days against NCAA tournament-type teams speaks volumes, sets you up, exposes where you need to improve, but unless you face people – iron sharpens iron – you don’t know what you need to work,” he said. “We have good players but they have a lot of character, they have a lot of heart, they have a lot of tenacity and unity.”

Championship Game MVP James Akinjo led the Bears with 15 points. “We want to do a long run in March Madness and that’s a likeness of what it’s going to be like,” he said. “As a team, we have come out strong in every game. There were very good teams and there were ups and downs, but we knew that as long as we put God first, everything would be fine.

The field for the 2022 edition of the tournament was recently revealed, with multiple returning programs and a returning champion.

The Tennesse Volunteers (Southeastern Conference) and Butler Bulldogs (Big East) will each make their third tournament appearance when the tournament concludes Nov. 23-25, 2022.

2014 B4A champion Wisconsin Badgers (Big 10) headline a slate of programs making their second appearance. This list also includes the Kansas Jayhawks (Big 12), USC Trojans (PAC 12), North Carolina State Wolfpack (ACC), and Dayton Flyers (Atlantic 10).

The BYU Cougars (West Coast Conference) will make their tournament debut.

In addition, the second edition of the women’s tournament will take place from November 19 to 21.

The eight-team field includes the Louisville Cardinals (ACC), Tennessee Volunteers (SEC), South Dakota State Jackrabbits (Summit League), Rutgers Scarlet Knight (Big 10), Boston Bruins ‘UCLA (PAC 12), Marquette Golden Eagles (Big East), Texas Longhorns Big 12) and Gonzaga Bulldogs (West Coast Conference).