Written By: Dave West (@Godsavetheham)
As 2015 ends, the next chapter for the UAB men’s basketball team begins. Conference USA play tips off this Sunday for the Blazers (10-3) as they are set to face their conference travel partner, the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (8-4).
UAB and MTSU met on the hardwood three times during the 2014-2015 season. Their first game, on January 4 in Murfreesboro, Tenn., was a hard fought low scoring battle won by the Blazers 54-49. The win gave the Blazers a taste of success after a difficult non-conference schedule yielded little.
Nearly two months later, the two teams tangled again in the friendly confines of Bartow Arena. The teams swapped buckets many times late in the match and neither was able to find much separation. The game would go on to three overtimes with the Blazers prevailing victorious. The win was especially sweet given that the Blue Raiders had swept the series the season before that included an overtime loss in Murfreesboro.
The final game between the two came during the Conference USA Tournament Championship game in Birmingham, Ala. at the Legacy Arena. It was clear early in the game that the Blazers were going to continue their magical run that began with a 1 point win over Western Kentucky, and an overtime win over Louisiana Tech the two days before. The Blazers opened up a double-digit lead midway through the first half and never looked back. A final score of 73-60 gave the Blazers its first automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament as a member of CUSA.
Scouting the Blue Raiders
Like the Blazers, the Blue Raiders return the majority of their starters from last year’s CUSA Conference Tournament team. MTSU typically starts three seniors, a junior and a sophomore this season.
It’s worth noting the lone starting sophomore, Giddy Potts, will likely miss another game due to undisclosed academic issue. Despite missing the past three games, Potts still leads the Raiders with 14.8 points per game.
Although Potts leads the team in scoring, Reggie Upshaw is the team’s most important player. He’s a physical 6-foot, 7-inch forward that can hit from anywhere on the court, but he makes his living in the paint. The key to beating the Blue Raider’s is not letting Upshaw take over. MTSU goes as Upshaw goes.
UAB / MTSU
FG%: 48.3 / 44.0
3P%: 35 / 36.4
Turnovers Per Game: 12.8 / 13.5
Assists: 19.2 / 12.8
Opponents PPG: 64.5 / 66.8
I predict we’ll see another low scoring game between the two teams. If the Blazers can start off strong and shoot decently from behind the arc, they should be able to score at will in the paint.