The last two meetings between these teams have been decided by a combined five points, both going the Blue Raiders way.

It’s been a while since the upperclassmen on our team have beaten Middle Tennessee. I’d imagine after being a part of a five-game winning streak against them before this, it doesn’t sit too well. What irks us all the most is just how close the past two games have been, and the circumstances that led to losses.

What if William Lee gets a hand on JaCorey Williams game-winner last year?

What if William Lee doesn’t hurt his knee during last month’s game?

What if Zack Bryant hits that second free throw?

In college basketball, with its unique format of allowing any team in a conference tournament to win it and reach the NCAA tournament, it makes momentum late in February all that more important. A couple two or three wins going into March could be the lift we need, or, maybe that’s meaningless considering we lost to the Florida duo in 2014 before making our run to the dance. I digress.

Let’s take a look at the Blue Raiders who appear to be on their way to a repeat regular season Conference USA title.

Scouting the Blue Raiders

Winners of their last nine games, Middle Tennessee garnered their first ever appearance in the AP Top 25 this week checking in at number 24. UAB hasn’t beaten an AP ranked team since defeating Iowa State in the NCAA tournament in 2014.

Most who follow UAB basketball closely are familiar with the main pieces of the Blue Raiders. Senior Nick King is likely going to be a unanimous pick for Conference USA Player of the Year, and senior Giddy Potts has to be in his 10th year with the program it feels like.

What makes this team so good is how their coach Kermit Davis gets the most from their complimentary pieces. For example, junior guard Antwain Johnson has improved to 10.2 points per game this season after averaging just 4.8 last year. Johnson is averaging 16.5 points this month, including a 23-point showing at Charlotte.

It’s worth mentioning that Middle Tennessee’s starting point guard sophomore Tyrik Dixon will not play Saturday. He came off the bench against us in January and didn’t have much influence in their win, so I don’t see his absence being much of a game changer.

Like I mentioned in the last preview for Middle Tennessee, beating this team starts with limiting Nick King, which no one in this conference has been able to do. In their lone loss at Marshall, King hurt his ankle and wasn’t right. It sounds crazy, but we can beat this team even if he scores 30 again. They are the best defensive team in the conference and it’ll take us scoring more than 70 points to have a chance, which we’re more than capable of doing. I think personnel-wise we match up with them very well. That is, when we play up to our potential.

3 Keys to Blazer Victory

  1. Chris Cokley had just 11 points in the last meeting. He’s going to be guarded by one of the bigger, more athletic front-courts in the conference so he’ll have his work cut out for him. He’ll need to have a productive outing.
  2. Potts and King combined for 49 of the team’s 63 points in the last game. We must cut off one of the heads of their two-headed monster.
  3. This might be William Lee’s final chance to beat Middle Tennessee, and he’s played very well of late. Bring home the bacon Haha.