No. 7 UAB Blazers (26-6, 16-2 C-USA) at No. 2 BYU Cougars (23-10, 13-5 WCC)
When: Wednesday, March 16 at 8 p.m. Mountain, 9 p.m. Central
Where: Marriott Center, Provo, Utah
UAB played first round darling in last year's NCAA Tournament with an upset of No. 3 Iowa State. They'll need more of that magic if they want to keep this season's postseason alive.
Dave Rose's Cougars will try to run their way past the Blazers at the 18,987 seat Marriott Center, just like they have with every team they've faced this season. Shortening the shot clock has had little effect on the Cougars, whose average possession this season uses less than half of the shot clock (14.5 seconds). The Blazers can run, too, so their offense will get plenty of chances to show off their pass-happy offense (18.5 assists per game) at altitude in Provo.
Senior point guard Kyle Collinsworth (15.2 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 7.4 apg) leads the Cougars' fast paced attack. The 6-foot-6 WCC Player of the Year does most of his work from inside the three point line, which allows him to grab an absurd percentage of rebounds for a point guard and in turn set the NCAA career triple double record with 11. Collinsworth's tendency to get into the paint opens up a lot of space for BYU's multitude of sharpshooters.
Chase Fischer (17.9 ppg), Nick Emery (16.2 ppg) and Zac Seljaas off the bench (7.3 ppg) have combined to hit 243 threes this season. Emery (87) and Seljaas (58) rank first and second, respectively, among freshmen in program history in three pointers made.
Fortunately for the Blazers, they're no slouches on the defensive end. Unfortunately, that strength has a lot to do with the shot blocking ability of C-USA Defensive Player of the Year William Lee (10.7 ppg, 3.0 bpg). The 6-foot-9 Lee ranks seventh nationally in both block rate and blocks per game.
It's not easy to slow down the Cougars, so the Blazers might just have to outscore them.
Lee, Robert Brown (13.5 ppg), Dirk Williams (9.3 ppg) and Denzell Watts (4.1 ppg) are all shooting over 35% from three and have made at least 25 threes this season. That alone gives the Blazers a puncher's chance at pulling off a big road upset. The Cougars help UAB as well, by not defending well against the three pointer. While not reliant on the three, the Blazers have the ability to utilize it to their advantage in this one.
Put all that together and you've got two solid offenses in what should be a high octane scoring-fest. Pretty good match-up for a seven vs. two game in the NIT.