BIRMINGHAM — You won’t have to look too far back in years to find UAB’s toughest non-conference schedule ever played. Going into the program’s 38th season, it was the 2014-15 non-conference slate that has proven to be the granddaddy of them all. Frankly speaking, it didn’t come at the best time.
In terms of experience, Jerod Haase’s squad that season ranked 345th out of 351 Division 1 schools. The Blazers average player experience was 0.84 years.
In the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas, UAB faced AP ranked Wisconsin (2), Florida (18), and UCLA (22).
The non-conference schedule was finished off with a beating in Chapel Hill by North Carolina (20). Both UCLA and North Carolina advanced to the Sweet 16 that season and Wisconsin lost to Duke in the NCAA championship game.
Facing four ranked teams before the New Year is a tall task for any college basketball team, much less an in-experienced one.
Just two other times has UAB played four AP ranked opponents out of conference — 84-85 and 87-88.
As we all know, the Blazers gauntlet start to 2014-15 payed dividends later with a run through in the Conference USA tournament and an upset over Iowa St. in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
This year Coach Ehsan and staff hope for success both at the end and the beginning of the season to prevent being left out of the NCAA tournament like last year.
Barring a massive upset to Troy, who UAB has never lost to, the Blazers should be 4-0 going to Missouri.
With the loss of senior Robert Brown and the likely insertion of Conference USA 6 Man of The Year Dirk Williams in the starting line up, the team should greatly benefit having a couple weeks to get into form.
I doubt coach Ehsan would admit it, but I bet he’d much rather start the season this way than on the road in Auburn like last season.
November 21-December 21
This is arguably one of the toughest months of basketball in the history of the program.
Yes, anything can happen to some of these teams that could cause them to be ranked lower when looking back in the future. Once the Kenpom.com rankings are released in September, Kansas, Georgia/George Washington, St. Mary’s, Stephen F. Austin, Memphis, and Texas will all likely be ranked lower than 70.
To make matters even more tough, UAB will face all six of these teams away from Birmingham.
Then, if that wasn’t enough, toss the home game against Auburn (who will be severely under-ranked) into the mix and you have a historically brutal non-conference schedule.
Within a 30-day period, UAB will play seven potential NCAA tournament teams.
Let that soak in.
Hopefully we’ll all remember how to get back to Bartow Arena at this point of the season. Assuming we do, we’ll be rewarded with a nice cool down against cross-town Division II Miles College.
According to Blazernation.com, we’ve never played Miles; though I’m not certain the records reflect non-Division 1 games.
Following the game against Miles, UAB won’t be home again until January 13 when they take on Western Kentucky.
Conference USA Schedule Preview: