Assuming we have enough players eligible to suit up a team Saturday post The Brawl In Bartow, I like our chances to win our 22nd consecutive home Conference USA game.

In all seriousness, according to the NCAA rules, it’s highly unlikely any player other than Hakeem Baxter will serve a suspension, and you can bet he will. The Philly native clearly lost his cool when bumped in the back by La Tech’s Jacobi Boykins, and as with most basketball “fights”, the second guy usually gets all the blame.

In this situation I commend the referees for actually implementing the rules as they’re intended to be followed. If players or assistant coaches leave the bench, they’re out — no questions asked. I’ve seen some argue that the some players on UAB’s team left the bench and were allowed to stay. This is certainly possible and unfortunate. In fact, the whole situation was unfortunate in that it ruined a good game between two good teams.

Going forward, UAB is in sole possession of second place and now owns tie-breakers over La Tech and Marshall. The pursuit for back-to-back regular season championships is still very much alive as UAB will play MTSU at home in late February and the Blue Raiders must face the Bulldogs this weekend as well as the a remaining schedule identical to UAB’s.

Scouting The Golden Eagles

It’s as tough to break down a team like Southern Miss as it is a really good team like La Tech. The Golden Eagles are ranked among the worst in college basketball in numerous categories, and their 6-14 record is reflective of that. But, similar to FIU, given the slightest bit of confidence coach Doc Sadlers’ team will make you fight (bad choice of words) 40 minutes for a win.

I was one of the unfortunate souls to take the bus down to Hattiesburg last season and watched the 21-3 Blazers squeak by a severely undermanned Southern Miss team in double overtime. I believe by the time we made it back to Birmingham it was around 3 a.m. Friday morning. It certainly wasn’t the trip we all expected.

On Saturday night Southern Miss will return just two starters from that team in the 6-foot-7 forward duo of seniors Quintin Campbell and Raheem Watts. Two current Golden Eagle starters, sophomore guard Cortez Edwards and senior forward Michael Ramey, also return from last year’s team. (Note* Tim Rowe also returns from last year’s team but is out for the season with an injury)

The big unknown here is Southern Miss’ senior point guard Khari Price who when active is one of the best play-makers in the conference. The 5-foot-9 Slidell, La. native had 14 points and 12 assists against UAB last season, but didn’t make his debut this year until January 5 when he scored 20 in a home win over UTSA. A knee injury kept him out initially, but recently a hand injury has kept him out in recent losses to Rice and Middle Tennessee. If he’s active and healthy, Southern Miss becomes significantly more dangerous and could really bother UAB with their smaller lineups.

Highlights below of Southern Miss’ most recent Conference USA win on January 19.

3 Things To Watch For

  1. No Baxter – Once again Hak showed he is an elite on ball defender last night helping UAB hold La Tech to 1-of-15  from behind the arc and 7 turnovers in the first half. If Khari Price is indeed active, this could be a situation where the Blazers will have a mismatch trying to defend him.
  2. Southern Miss Defense – The Golden Eagles had a very good first 10 minutes against MTSU Thursday night holding their efficient offense to 12 and 13 points to start each half. They are scrappy and disciplined.
  3. Three-Point Shooting – While UAB has shot the three much better of late, the Golden Eagles rank among the worst in college basketball percentage-wise. Southern Miss as a team collectively shoots 28.5 percent, which ranks them 345 out of 351 Division 1 teams.