Alas, after more than five months of silence on the basketball news front we have the release of the 2017-18 complete schedule. If I’m being honest and frank, this schedule is the polar opposite in marquee value compared to last season’s. As we all know, scheduling is extremely challenging for a program like UAB. It appears there were talks with some larger profile programs, but the final contracts weren’t able to be worked out, thus resulting in some really lackluster games. Nonetheless, let’s take a look at what the Blazers will face before they embark on their Conference USA portion of their schedule.
The Home Games
- Lemoyne-Owen College
- Mississippi College
- Alabama A&M (Legacy Arena)
- New Orleans
- Mississippi Valley State
The good news is UAB should go 7-0 at home during non-conference play. The bad news, barring winning out on the road, our measurables (RPI, etc.) are going to be really, really bad. My guess is we’ll start the season in the 175-200 range among 351 Division 1 teams. Clearly this team is better than that, but as we know the rankings matter, and because of our performance last season we’ll be starting well behind the eight ball. I never thought I’d see a day where we’d have two SWAC and two non-Division 1 teams on the schedule.
Realistically, the only two challenging games of the home slate are Chattanooga and Memphis. I know we haven’t fared well against either of late, but both of these schools are currently in full rebuild mode. If we’re healthy, we should win.
The Road Games
- Richmond (Cayman)
- Buffalo / Cincinnati (Cayman)
- Iowa, Louisiana, South Dakota St, or Wyoming (Cayman)
The team should be rested and without a loss going to the Cayman tournament, which will give them an opportunity to potentially face one or two top 50 teams. UAB will likely be favored against a Richmond team that won 22 games last season but is replacing one of the best mid-major players in the country in TJ Cline. It’s hard to tell how good Cincinnati will be because, like Richmond, they are replacing key pieces due to graduation. The Cayman tournament is very winnable for UAB if you consider Cincinnati is probably the best team on paper and they’re likely not a top 25 team. Maybe this will finally be the season UAB wins a tournament?
I hate to be dismissive of Troy, especially since we’ll be on their home court; however, don’t expect much different than what we’ve seen against them the last two season. Troy’s roster will be virtually the same as last season’s, and UAB matches up with them really well. I’d say the Blazers biggest concern will be looking ahead to the upcoming Auburn game.
The final road game of the non-conference slate could very likely be UAB’s toughest game of the entire regular season. I wouldn’t be surprised if Auburn was ranked by the time this game took place given their schedule and potential. The Tigers return every player of note from last season and will also have the services of future lottery pick Austin Wiley. These two teams have had memorable games against each other the last two seasons, but this one has the makings to be really great.
Finishing the non-conference slate 13-0 isn’t out of the realm of possibility, and it would give UAB two or three top 50 wins. It’s hard to look past the cupcakes that will submarine the Blazer’s resume at the end of the season. As usual, we’ll need to win the C-USA tournament to dance, but I know we’d all love to see a strong performance in the non-conference again like two seasons ago. My money is on 11-2, which will put UAB in position to have another 25-plus win season.