There’s a good chance the title of this article alone might deter those who haven’t tossed in the towel on the season already. Consuming statistics isn’t exactly the most enjoyable thing, whether they positively or negatively reflect the team you support. However, to better understand what’s currently going on with UAB basketball, I believe the information below will better paint the picture.
UAB is good in some areas, but, great in none
Leading into the season, I think it’s safe to say most of us felt UAB had a very formidable inside-and-out game with the potential to be great. We assumed Nick Norton, Dirk Williams, and even William Lee, would be a solid trio of outside threats that would give Chris Cokley and others room to operate in the paint. With Nick out, the balance has been completely uprooted and UAB has continued to have trouble finding it’s offensive identity now late in February.
I believe UAB wants to be, and has to be, a pound in the paint, physical type of team given the pieces they have available. In Conference USA that strategy, given the lack of balance mentioned above, is good enough to win about 50 percent of the time. Against teams like Southern Miss, Charlotte, and Marshall (usually) we can get by pounding the rock with our bigs, while not relying on jump shooting.
Against teams like Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky, Old Dominion, and UTEP we see our true lack of balance show up. These teams force us to shoot mid-range and 3-pointers to beat them, which we’ve been unable to do consistently. We’ve become one of the easiest teams to scout in this conference.
In Conference USA only games, UAB ranks in the top eight in most offensive categories, but is dead last in turnover percentage. UAB also ranks dead last in defensive turnover percentage. Combine those two stats and what you get is a team that just doesn’t get enough opportunities to put up high percentage momentum building shots.
Of late, when UAB isn’t turning it over, they are running half court plays deep into the shot clock more than 17 seconds. Their offensive possessions are often slow developing, and if you could find a site that kept up with breakaway baskets I’d be willing to bet we are near the bottom.
The key to stopping this trend starts on the defensive end. Good defense will cure or hide many offensive issues. It’s hard to believe but UAB is the second best team in the conference at defending the 3-point line. Where they are really, really bad is defending the paint and mid-range.
UAB is 13th in 2-point percentage defense and has really struggled defending teams in their half court offense. The teams that have formidable front courts have been abusing UAB in the paint, and our offense just isn’t efficient enough to keep up the scoring pace on the other end.
Something is going to have to change in the coming weeks, or I’d expect more of the same of what we’ve seen during this abysmal February. I’m predicting we’ll see the defensive three quarter and full court pressure increase significantly to produce more opponent turnovers, which should in turn result in more fluid offensive.
UAB could also stand to foul more in an effort to break up the flow of their opponents offense. UAB ranks last in Conference USA in defensive free throw rate, which I believe is a result of timid play in the paint.
This week off couldn’t have come at a better time for this down-trodden team who is one of the last to get it’s week off during conference play. When play returns on Sunday, UAB will have the chance to discover their identity and reclaim the defensive success they experienced in January. If not … I’ll meet you at the bar post-game.