In a month’s time, the 2023-24 college basketball season will commence for the Howard Women’s Basketball program. In a year that marks the 50th anniversary of the program’s inaugural season, the Lady Bison are set to compete in the Battle 4 Atlantis at the Atlantis Paradise Island resort in the Bahamas. They will be the first HBCU team to compete in the tournament, which originated in 2011 as a tournament for men’s basketball before eventually expanding to feature a women’s bracket in 2020–though the first year was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are grateful to be the first HBCU women’s basketball program to play in this event,” said associate head coach Brian Davis. “We look forward to representing the MEAC conference and the Howard University community with style and grace. Go Bison!”
Howard Women’s Basketball has been a part of multiple historic firsts. In 2022, for the first time in 50 years, the team achieved a victory in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. This victory also marked the first “First Four” play-in tournament win in NCAA history. Furthermore, the Lady Bison are the only HBCU team to win a game in the NCAA sporting event since it expanded to include at least 64 teams. Leading the way is a challenge that the program has taken head-on from the beginning, and the Battle 4 Atlantis is no different.
The three-day competition leads up to Thanksgiving every year, with this year’s dates falling from Nov. 18 through Nov. 20. Since its formation in 2011, the Battle 4 Atlantis has been recognized as one of the highest-paying early-season college basketball tournaments, as it awards teams $150,000 just for showing up–an enticing incentive for any team.
Some of the biggest names in college basketball have participated in the competition, including the Duke Blue Devils, Virginia Cavaliers, Louisville Cardinals, Syracuse Orange, Michigan Wolverines, Gonzaga Bulldogs, and the South Carolina Gamecocks.
This year’s group for the women’s bracket consists of eight teams: Howard University, University of Mississippi, Depaul University, University of Memphis, Middle Tennessee University, University of Michigan University of South Dakota, and Arizona State. The last two champions – UCLA and the University of South Carolina – will both be absent this year, paving the way for a new victor to be crowned.
“It’s always great to be able to compete with some of the best programs in the country,” said Davis. “Also, to do it in a setting as beautiful as the Bahamas, under the umbrella of the Battle 4 Atlantis makes this opportunity even more special.”
One aspect of the tournament is that it serves as a way to get fans to visit the resort, with ticket packages sold on the website in conjunction with the event. The package options include: game tickets sold separately; both room and game tickets; and an option for rooms, flight, and game tickets, which would include not only the tickets to the games, but also hotel reservations and flights to the island country.
“Being in the Battle 4 Atlantis is a great opportunity for us as a program,” said senior guard Destiny Howell, reigning Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) player of the year. Howell is trying to lead her team back to the promised land after a close defeat at the hands of Norfolk State in last season’s MEAC Tournament championship game. “It allows us to showcase ourselves as a team, get more exposure, and play good competition. The fact that we get to do all of this in a different country is really cool,” she said.
On Nov. 18, the Lady Bison will face their first-round opponent Ole Miss, who finished last season 25-9 and made it all the way to the Round of 16 of the NCAA Tournament. After the first round, the team is guaranteed to play either the University of Arizona or the University of Memphis due to the consolation bracket.