“Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War
This is the third time I’ve previewed UAB vs. MTSU for the blog and each time it seems the stakes get higher and higher. Whether it’s January or late February at least one of these teams is playing at a nationally recognized high level and the other wants nothing more than to push them off the throne.
The game played in Murfreesboro this Sunday afternoon will be the most physical and talent loaded as any you’ll see in Conference USA for the remainder of the season. That is, until the play again in on February 26 in Birmingham.
Both of these teams rank in the top 50 in terms of experience and they’ll each feature players that have been in games at the highest level and have seen success. A few have played each other at least twice a year for the past 3 years. Tosin Mehinti, Tyler Madison, and Denzell Watts will take the court against Reggie Upshaw for the 8th time in their careers.
This game will have plenty of story lines but none bigger than the fact UAB has bested the Blue Raiders in their last 5 meetings. The score doesn’t reflect it but by all accounts the Blazers ran MTSU out of their own gym last season. Combine that with the Blue Raider’s having lost their last two games, don’t expect them to be lacking in urgency.
The battle between MTSU’s front court of JaCorey Williams, Brandon Walters, and Reggie Upshaw matched against UAB’s Chris Cokley, William Lee, and Tosin Mehinti will exert the physical energy comparable to planet-sized asteroids colliding in deep space. This will be grown man basketball similar to power conference inter-league play.
If you’re unable to be at this game DO NOT miss the opportunity to watch it. Campus Insiders will be live streaming the game on their site, on Twitter, and on Facebook. Here’s the link to the live stream from their site ⇒ UAB vs. MTSU.
Scouting The Blue Raiders
As with most great, experienced teams the attempt to scout them is an extremely tall task and MTSU is no exception. They have few weaknesses and they do a masterful job of exposing the opposing team’s.
Offensively they are led by the three-headed monster of Giddy Potts, Reggie Upshaw, and JaCorey Williams. Most are familiar with the previous two having seen the Blazers face them many times. The addition of Williams makes MTSU, in my opinion, even better than they were last season.
Williams, who is from Birmingham, spent three seasons playing for Mike Anderson at Arkansas before transferring to MTSU at the end of the 2014-15 season. At 6-foot-8 and 220 lbs he is a nightmare to handle in the paint. He’s a southpaw with high level footwork and the body of a power conference interior player.
Take a look at him and Upshaw doing work in the paint.
The third piece of the Blue Beast is none other than one of the nation’s best sharp shooters, Giddy Potts. The junior guard has followed up last season’s 79 of 156 51% three point shooting performance with more of the same hitting 31 of 74 this season good for 41%.
Potts is far from a one trick pony. When we had Aldo Amato, MTSU’s beat writer, on for the C-USA Hoopscast he mentioned Potts is best when he is rebounding and being active in the paint. He’s a handful at 220 lbs and at 6-foot-2 he leaps like a player who is much taller. But it’s that three point shot that’ll kill you.
5 Things To Look For
- Tyrik Dixon – MTSU has consistently started a freshman at the point guard position this season. He’s not asked to do to much but against VCU he had 12 points and showed flashes of his future potential. Upsetting his apple cart early will be key for UAB.
- Foul Trouble – This could be a problem for both teams. Each of MTSU’s three-headed monster have had their issues with fouls this season. Chris Cokley, who has struggled with fouls as well, is going to have his hands full no matter who he’s guarding.
- Turnovers – MTSU is in the top 30 of the nation in protecting the ball and turning over their opponents. Turnovers have been the Blazers’ Achilles heel at times and the last thing they’ll want is easy transition dunks for the Blue Raiders on their home floor.
- Dirk Williams – You can guarantee Coach Kermit Davis is going to make UAB beat them with out Chris Cokley. They’ll be smothering him which should lead to open looks and space for Williams. He’ll need to be on fire Sunday night.
- 1-3-1 Zone Defense – The Blue Raider’s zone defense can be best described as a 1-3-1 but really it’s a 2-2-1 press zone hybrid Frankenstein defense. It gives teams fits after MTSU made baskets. UAB will need to have a very sharp offensive night or this game will get away from them. Playing in the half court against MTSU is tougher than a