UAB (7) vs BYU (2)
Wednesday, March 16, 9 p.m. CT
The Marriott Center in Provo, Utah
PROVO, Utah — It’s only fitting that these two teams would meet again exactly 32 years since their first dance together on the hardwood. On that day in 1984 Coach LaDell Anderson’s Cougars defeated Gene Bartow’s Blazers 84-68 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Complex (BJCC) in Birmingham, Ala. The two team’s would go on to split a pair of games that would take place over the course of the next five years. BYU holds the all-time series advantage over UAB 2 games to 1.
For the Blazers, a season with expectations as high as the Wasatch mountain range tragically came to a sudden and heart-breaking end when they were abruptly bounced from the Conference USA tournament in the second round in Birmingham last week. Those attending the noon, weekday game were left stunned and questioned how could their hometown team go down so early in a tournament that they were seeded first and hosting.
When the Blazers and the Cougars tip Wednesday night it will have only been six days since the final whistle blew and the Blazers Big Dance dreams were turned into nightmares. Judging by the numb semblance of Blazer fans young and old as they exited the BJCC, a lifetime may not heal these wounds.
Rest assured UAB faithful, all is not lost. For 193 NCAA Division 1 teams, their seasons are in fact over. Done. No more dunks, three-pointers, or chances to inspire and captivate their supporters. In college basketball, March is a time of the highest highs and the lowest lows. For now, the UAB Blazers can still climb higher and attain things no other team donning the green and gold have ever done before.
Scouting the BYU Cougars (23-10)
BYU finished third in the West Coast Conference behind fellow NIT participant Saint Mary’s and WCC tournament champion Gonzaga. The Cougars are most certainly classified as an up-tempo team offensively speaking.
They are led by 6-foot-6 senior guard Kyle Collinsworth who broke the single-season triple-double record of five in early February this season. During their win over Portland in the WCC semifinals, Collinsworth completed his sixth triple-double of the season and is now tied with Michael Anderson (Drexel) and Shaquille O’Neal (LSU) with six apiece.
It’s likely most UAB fans haven’t stayed up to watch West Coast Conference games this season. To give you all a better idea of BYU’s offensive style of play, let’s compare UAB, BYU, and one of the Blazers more familiar opponents, Marshall. It’s worth noting that BYU’s potent offense comes at no expense of their defense, which ranks 76th in adjusted defensive efficiency. UAB is 156th and Marshall is 280th.
It would be unfair and inaccurate to generically label BYU as a team just “somewhere in between” UAB and Marshall in their style of offensive play. The Cougars top three minutes per game players are all guards ranging from 6-foot-2 to 6-foot-6. The Cougars are one of the most unique teams in the country in that guard Kyle Collinsworth leads the team in assists per game with 7.4 and rebounds with 277. UAB’s leading rebounder, 6-foot-8 sophomore forward Chris Cokley, has 206.
BYU will likely start a true center in sophomore Corbin Kaufusi who averages 15.9 minutes per game, 5.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, and has swatted 36 shots this season. Complementing the big man is 6-foot-8 junior power forward Kyle Davis who transferred from Utah State two seasons ago where he started 27 of 29 games as a sophomore. Davis typically gets his minutes coming off the bench given that the Cougars will use their big guards to play inside and out.
Collinsworth and 6-foot-7 freshman guard Zac Seljaas are both more than capable of holding their own in the paint. Seljaas has started the last three games for the Cougars and is averaging 7.3 points per game in 18.8 minutes of action.
The sharpshooters for the Cougars are guards Nick Emery and the team’s leading scorer Chase Fischer who have hit 87 and 98 three-pointers respectively. Robert Brown leads the Blazers in three-pointers made with 62.
Senior guard Chase Fischer leads BYU in scoring with 17.9 points per game in 33.7 minutes. The majority of the point guard duties are in the hands of Mr. Do It All Kyle Collinsworth who has 244 assists this season. UAB’s sophomore point guard Nick Norton has 160 assists. The Cougars have three players averaging more than 30 minutes per game. The Blazers’ senior guard Robert Brown is the lone player averaging more than 30 minutes per game for UAB.
Key to the Game
The Cougars go as Kyle Collinsworth goes. The senior guard played all 40 minutes in their 88-84 loss to Gonzaga in the the WCC tournament championship game. In BYU’s 33 games, Collinsworth has committed more than three fouls only twice, and never fouled out. It’s likely UAB’s senior leader Robert Brown will be given the tall task of covering the Cougar star given his size. Both senior guards will be putting it all on the court in hopes of prolonging their college careers. Robert Brown has saved the day for the Blazers in March before. On Wednesday night, look for the two seniors to carry their respective teams.
Who has the edge?
- Guards ⇒ Even
- Forwards ⇒ UAB
- Coaching ⇒ BYU
- Interior ⇒ UAB
- Shooting ⇒ BYU
- Star Power ⇒ BYU