If you’d told me a month ago that UAB would be traveling to Boca Raton, Fla. to face an FAU squad that has started Conference USA play 1-4, I’d have called you crazy. In early December the Owls traveled up to Columbus, Ohio and beat Ohio State in overtime in what was one of the biggest upsets in the early college basketball season. I was buying stock in Michael Curry’s program. Since then, well, they’ve gone off the rails.
FAU followed up their big win over the Buckeyes with a 20 point blowout loss at Miami that was over five minutes into the game. To finish up their non-conference play they handled a non-D1 team then dropped a home game to a pretty good Florida Gulf Coast squad. Despite losing two of their last three games before conference play, I still held out hope for FAU given that they would start with three home games, and I felt their roster could be competitive in Conference USA.
Maybe I was given false hope after the Ohio St. win. In retrospect, it’s looking more like the Buckeyes played incredibly poor rather than FAU played up to their greatest potential. The Owls have pretty good pieces in the front and back-court, but have failed to win the games they have to win to be a top half of the conference team. Losing to Western Kentucky on your home court by double-digits is not a good look.
FAU Arena, a.k.a. “The Burrow”, has not been a friendly place for UAB the past three seasons. Since 2014 the Blazers are 1-2 in their gym, and last season’s win was barely secured by a last second William Lee block that edged the Owls 73-70. This is a quintessential “trap game” and the Blazers will have to play with the same energy and tenacity they did in last week’s two wins to avoid losing to a far inferior team.
Scouting The Owls
To understand FAU, you’ll need to know what they’re capable of at their best and their worst. Their win over Ohio St. is clearly their best performance this season and they won that game from behind the 3-point line. The Owls found themselves down 58-47 in the second half before getting super hot from behind the arc and scoring 24 points in the final 10 minutes. At their worst they went 2-of-15 from behind the arc in a 69-54 home loss to WKU on December 31.
The Owls play a traditional two guard, two forward, and a center lineup that on the defensive end will primarily play man. Delph, their 7-foot center and Auburn transfer, could potentially give Cokley some trouble with his length, but he struggles with fouls averaging nearly four per game over the last five. In my opinion, FAU’s interior defense will be their weakest link, and Lee and Cokley should be able to get good looks at the rim regularly.
At any given time FAU will have three or four 3-point shooters who aren’t shy to take their shot. The Owls certainly do not have the knock down shooters as say Rice or Charlotte, but they could hurt UAB if the Blazers get back to their old ways of not closing out shots on the perimeter. Equal or better defense than what UAB played last week will get the job done over FAU. The Blazers only lose this game if they beat themselves.
3 Things To Watch For
- Chris Cokley – I’ll be curious to see the type of minutes he gets if UAB is able to secure a comfortable lead. He certainly had some moments in the second half where it seemed his ankle was good to go, but he is still not 100 percent.
- William Lee – Will the show go on, or will he be on cruise control?
- Gerdarius Troutman – In FAU’s losses at UTSA and UTEP the junior guard combined for 11 3-pointers. He’s as streaky as they come and cannot be allowed to see one or two go in.