“The enlightened ruler is heedful, and the good general full of caution.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War
It had been quite some time since UAB has lost four of their last five conference games. You’d have to look back to a stretch of games in February of 2014 during Haase’s second year in Birmingham, before the current realignment. The following season the Blazers lost four of five in November but since have had tremendous success bouncing back after tough losses. The big question now is, will UAB respond like the did in 2014 or like they did in 2015 with an NCAA tournament run?
I’ll leave it to the the self-proclaimed internet basketball experts to point out the myriad of reasons why UAB has failed to produce wins the past few weeks. We all know how we got here and we’ve all tried our best to keep the faith since November 11. We’ve been dealt our cards and the fate of the season is now in the hands of the players who have just weeks left of their college basketball careers. Sometimes a little bit of urgency is good.
With four games left to play UAB is in a very manageable position to reclaim a top four spot in the conference standings. In my opinion none of the four teams between the 3rd and 6th spot in front of UAB have an easier slate of games and all must play five games versus UAB’s four. It’s cliche to say but there is in fact A LOT of basketball left to be played. After tomorrow’s game at WKU the Blazers will be the only conference team with only home games to finish the regular season.
Scouting The Hilltoppers
As I mentioned in the Marshall preview, I recommend you look back to our breakdown of WKU last month to get an in depth look at their personnel.
If you click on the play button above in the WKU basketball tweet you’ll see the most recent starting 5 for the Hilltoppers that they’ve used the previous two games. The only difference between the line up they used in January against us and now is the substitution of 6-foot-7 senior forward Anton Waters for the seven footer Ben Lawson. Waters offers a great deal more girth but in terms of on court production they’re practically the same.
UAB abused WKU in the paint last month in Birmingham and that’ll likely be Ehsan’s same strategy tomorrow. The Blazers made 12 more two-point field goals and won by a 18 point margin despite only hitting five 3-pointers.
WKU doesn’t posses anywhere near the same offensive abilities that Marshall does barring a total defensive collapse from the Blazers. The Herd’s tempo, ball movement, and lack of turnovers (the lead C-USA) kept UAB from finding any momentum in the second half on Thursday. UAB will need to slow this game down and let it get physical even if it results in a free throw shooting competition in the second half. Keep in mind WKU is next to last in free throw percentage in conference play.
When the game was still in question in the first half against WKU, UAB smothered the Tops behind the arc and held them to just one made 3-pointer. Que Johnson and Pancake Thomas are capable of filling it up from the outside and that will be key for UAB to stop early in the game. An ugly, low possession game would be best for the Blazers who just need to get out of the road trip with a split and some momentum.
3 Things To Watch For
- Dirk Williams – I predicted Dirk would have a huge game before the season ended but I was hoping the rest of the team would show up as well when he did it. If the pieces around him can do their part UAB becomes a very dangerous team going forward.
- Turnovers – I can remember every single one of the 21 turnovers UAB had against Marshall. That was one of the worst efforts we’ve seen from this team on the offensive end this season. One would hope we can only go up from here.
- Tosin Mehinti – For the love of Gene Bartow let’s please not start a game with three possessions run through Tosin ever again. I’d take a contested three pointer over an entry pass to him at this point. He had some solid defensive moments but mercy I can’t handle counting on stone hands to get us buckets early in the game on the road.