Before we get in to the preview of ODU let’s take a look at UAB’s win over Charlotte on Thursday night. UAB’s 52 points in the paint were the most they’ve had all season, and they converted a staggering 29-of-54 of their 2-pointers. It was a near perfect execution of the game plan needed to beat Charlotte.

Chris Cokley was awarded the MVP award for the first time since the Southern game after he scored 19 points in just 23 minutes of play. This brings me to a point that I want to bring up that is very puzzling when you consider how great a player Cokley is. In 25 appearances this season Cokley has yet to play more than 30 minutes in a game. In the last six games he’s played less than 24 minutes in each and he never had more than 1 foul. It’s something to think about.

Let’s talk about William Lee. Haha was a smooth 7-of-12 Thursday night and he never attempted a 3-point shot. He flourished against a smaller Charlotte front line and it was a welcomed sight to see. In games that Lee has attempted more than 11 shots UAB is 5-0. The reality is Lee needs to be UAB’s volume shooter every single game for the team to be most effective. He’s played over 159 more minutes than Cokley, but has just two more shot attempts. Again, it’s something to think about.

Now, on to the Monarchs!

Much like Charlotte, UAB and ODU played a ton of games in the 80’s and 90’s. The Blazers lead the all-time series 20-9 and have yet to lose to the Monarchs since they joined Conference USA in 2013. UAB has won five straight in the series and they are 13-1 against ODU in the city of Birmingham. UAB has never lost to ODU in UAB Arena / Bartow Arena.

Scouting The Monarchs

Only two teams in all of college basketball play at a slower tempo than ODU — Virginia and Saint Mary’s. Even if UAB has one of their most efficient and hottest shooting nights tomorrow they’d be fortunate to break 70 points against the Monarchs. ODU has lost their last two games but still managed to keep their opponents below 65 points, most recently MTSU on Thursday night.

We’ll see almost the polar opposite in terms of personnel from the Monarchs as we saw from Charlotte Thursday. ODU will likely play five players over 6-foot-7 double-digit minutes, and they are the most physical and defensive minded group of forwards in the conference — and that includes UAB and MTSU. As formidable as they can be on defense, they are equally as inefficient and inconsistent on offense.

ODU’s current struggles have a lot to do with their one dimensional offense. In the last three games they’ve been unable to hit more than 4 3-pointers. While it’s great to have such uncommon interior depth and size in Conference USA, it’s more times than not gotten them beat when they’ve been unable to convert from the perimeter. UAB in a sense is similar to the Monarchs when we have just one or two legitimate 3-point threats on the court at a time. Defenses scheme against post looks in result it makes scoring in the paint very difficult (See UTEP and UTSA). Even the best interior players struggle when four bodies are sagging in the paint.

The Monarchs have four players who average between 10 and 13 points and honestly you don’t know who is going to step up for them offensively night-in and night-out. On occasion their guards Jordan Baker, Ahmad Caver, and BJ Stith can get hot from behind the arc, but they’re far from as consistent as we’ve seen from players from Rice, Charlotte, and Marshall.

This game will come down to how effective Brandan Stith, Zoran Talley, Trey Porter, and Denzell Taylor can be against UAB’s big three. The paint battles will be physical and not for the faint of heart. Be thankful this game is played on Saturday and not Thursday because all parties will need some rehab after this one.

3 Things To Watch For

  1. Deion Lavender – It’s no coincidence that UAB has won 7-of-the-8 Conference USA games Lavender has scored in double-digits. It seems like every night we see him play he does something even more special than the last time out. DEION NEEDS MORE MINUTES!!!!
  2. Free Throws – The charity stripe very well may decide this game given the game plans these teams will want to implement. UAB was the best free throw shooting team in the conference before the most recent Texas trip. Tomorrow night they’ll need to convert at a high rate because points will most certainly be scarce.
  3. Dirk Williams – I’m all for Dirk hitting his stride in mid-February. In fact, I predict we’ll have a complete Death Taxes Dirk Williams game in our near future. I’m talking a 25-plus point game with a signature poster dunk!