This UAB Blazer squad is one of the least experienced teams you will see in the tournament field - actually, to be exact, your top-seeded Kentucky Wildcats are the only team in the tournament (and one of only six teams in all of Division I) with less experience than UAB. Their entire roster features one junior and two seniors, and one of those two seniors played a whopping 25 minutes this season.
That green look about this team is not just their uniforms.
Perhaps that metric could explain this one: the Blazers posted an 8-1 record against Conference USA squads with a higher RPI than them during the regular season - but still only managed a 12-6 conference record overall. They even posted a putrid 6-3 record against teams with an RPI of 240 or higher.
Will we see the Blazer team that came *thisclose* to going 3-0 against Louisiana Tech while also giving Illinois State and LSU a run for their money? Or will we see the team that struggled with the likes of Florida Atlantic? Hard to say for sure, but considering how they got into the tournament, it just might be their year to have some luck come their way.
Top Player - Robert Brown
Although this depends on how you define "top," I guess. He's the Blazers' leading scorer, which is a little depressing considering he can't even crack 40 percent shooting from the field (which is backed up by his 41.7 eFG%). The Virginia Tech-transfer is fairly average on offense from an efficiency perspective, and it would seem like a fairly accurate microcosm for the team at large, since average is probably the best they can strive for as a group.
Brown's 22 points in the CUSA title game - or his 27 against Illinois State - show what he is capable of when he is firing on all cylinders. His seven points against Louisiana-Monroe, two points against UCLA, and five points against Florida Atlantic are equal evidence of just how inconsistently all those cylinders are firing.
Player that Makes You Sound Smart - Nick Norton, William Lee
Two of the freshmen that are carrying this team throughout the season, Norton is a sharpshooter who has lit it up from downtown several times this season, including 26 points in the overtime win against Charlotte and 17 in their Bahamas tilt against UCLA.
Lee has come on late for the Blazers, as his 7.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg season line hides his 11.9 and 7.9 averages from the last ten games. He has played well on the defensive glass, and his growth has meant a lot to a team in desperate need of someone other than C.J. Washington down low (Washington is first on the team in percentage of possessions that end with him handling the ball, despite being dead last on the team in eFG% and TS%).
What to Expect from UAB
Well, for one thing, a whole freaking lot of #FreeUAB signs. A national audience for the program will mean a whole lot of conversation about the currently extinct football team, which should make for very entertaining events in and around the city of Birmingham. Check out that link I popped in earlier on if you really want to climb down that rabbit hole.
Honestly, this is a group that is very likely to be overmatched by whatever team they play. Blocking shots, rebounding on offense, and making free throws are the only things they really do at an above average level as a team, and that's just not enough to compete when you're looking up at a team from outside your own conference.
I fully expect this to be one of those games where you tune in early and see some great effort, and some close scores... and then tune in again later and go "well, it was nice while it lasted."