Inaugural Atlantic Slam Brings College Hoops To New Brunswick
By Rocco Miller
The Atlantic Slam is coming to College Basketball in 2023. The event is held in Moncton, New Brunswick. Plans are in place to deliver a unique experience for each of the participating teams and fans. The event will not only host college basketball doubleheaders for three straight days (November 17-19), but will also host a High School Basketball showcase featuring three of the best Canadian teams and a top European team. The idea is to give an opportunity for a burgeoning Basketball hotbed (Canada) better access to Division 1 Basketball. The other part that is so unique is that the Province of New Brunswick is showing a substantial commitment to basketball by approving funding for this Event. There are early plans in place to grow the event and add a Women’s field in 2024. The Avenir Centre This building looks spectacular. Designed for Moncton’s Junior Hockey program, the Avenir Centre is an 8,500-seat venue that hosts several concerts and events. This will be an opportunity to showcase New Brunswick’s nicest venue to the American audience.
Meet The Teams The inaugural field will be Gardner-Webb, Yale, Weber State, and Colgate. Four successful programs are now secured to come and launch this event off the ground. The event could not be more thrilled to have this group of teams, which will play a round-robin style event each day between November 17-19.
GARDNER-WEBB – In the past decade of Big South basketball, only two programs have been .500 or better in every conference season – Winthrop and Tim Craft’s Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs. One of the more under-appreciated tenures in College Basketball is right here in Boiling Springs. Coach Craft has provided a model of consistent winning, highlighted by a trip to the 2019 NCAA Tournament. The 23-24 version of the Bulldogs will bring back several key players including DQ Nicholas, Lucas Stieber, Caleb Robinson, and Julien Soumaoro.
Image sourced from Gardner-Webb.edu
YALE – These Bulldogs had their third-best season (by KenPom standards) in the 24-year tenure of James Jones a season ago. Only the 2020 version (no tournament) and the 2016 edition (advanced to 2nd Round of NCAA’s) proved to be stronger seasons. The year ended with a tough Ivy League Title Game loss to Princeton (who of course went on to make Sweet 16 noise and shock the world). An NIT appearance and a Top 65 finish is a wildly successful team by Ivy League standards. Coach Jones has to feel good about the fact that his top five returners each played significant minutes in the Ivy Title game including three starters in John Poulakidas, Bez Mbeng, and August Mahoney. Matt Knowling projects to have a strong senior season as well. The Atlantic Slam will offer a great opportunity to see where Yale is heading in 23-24.
WEBER STATE – Second-year head coach Eric Duft is no stranger in Ogden. He spent several years on the bench with retired legend Randy Rahe. Coach Duft made strides in his first year, leading the Wildcats to a 12-6 record in Big Sky play and they picked up an opening round win over Sacramento State before falling in a double OT thriller to an uber-talented, and eventual NCAA rep, Montana State team. That loss represents a few important areas. One, these Wildcats were playing well enough to make the NCAA’s last year in Coach Duft’s first season. Two, that loss has got to be driving this Wildcat program all off-season in preparation for the season. The biggest news came recently when NBA prospect Dillon Jones announced he would withdraw from the NBA Draft and return to Weber State. This has some pundits picking the Wildcats to win the Big Sky this season. They will come to compete at the Atlantic Slam.
COLGATE – Colgate's 13th-year head coach Matt Langel and the Raiders are still rolling. Langel has been in the mix for several high major job openings in recent years but is clearly comfortable in Hamilton, New York, where he is leading one of the more successful runs in Patriot League history. The Colgate program has won the Patriot League Tournament in four of the past five seasons, including three straight heading into 2023-24, and the Raiders have a dominant 44-4 record in the league the past three seasons. The Raiders have secured big non-conference wins over Syracuse in each of the last two seasons, but the Atlantic Slam will certainly provide a challenge before their conference slate ramps up. Colgate got excellent news earlier this week with the announcement of Ryan Moffatt’s return. Moffat joins Keegan Records in what looks like a dynamic duo. Colgate does have to replace some quality older players however, and the Atlantic Slam will be right around the time they start to learn a lot about the younger pieces to the puzzle. Especially in the Atlantic Slam’s round-robin format.
Image sourced from Colgateathletics.com