Introducing Cinderella: Meet the UAB Blazers

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Conference: Conference USA

Coach: Jerod Haase

Record: 19-15 (12-6)

Ratings and rankings:

Kenpom: 127
RPI (per NCAA.com): 139
AP/USA Today: Not ranked

Seeding: The Blazers are projected to be a 15-seed.

Names you need to know: Robert Brown (12.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.0 apg), Nick Norton (7.7 ppg, 3.9 apg), William Lee (7.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg), Tosin Mehinti (7.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg)

Stats you need to know: UAB isn’t the best team when it comes to shooting the basketball, as they’re making just 42.7 percent of their shots from the field and 32.7 percent from beyond the arc. But the Blazers do make the most of their opportunities from the foul line, as they’re shooting better than 74 percent from the charity stripe. Another area in which UAB looks to account for those offensive deficiencies is on the offensive glass, as they’re rebounding more than 34 percent of their misses per kenpom.com.

Tendencies: UAB has just one player averaging double figures, Brown, and they’ve got five players averaging between 6.2 and 7.7 points per game. Brown is the main man offensively but the Blazers have multiple players capable of stepping up on any given night, including two of C-USA’s best freshmen in Norton and Lee. Defensively UAB has blocked more than 13 percent of its opponents’ shots, with Mehenti (2.0 bpg) and Lee (1.6 bpg) being the main rejectors.

Big wins, bad losses: UAB didn’t get much done in non-conference play, which included a spot in the Battle 4 Atlantis, but they did manage to beat some of C-USA’s best in conference play. Among the teams the Blazers have knocked off are Louisiana Tech (twice), Old Dominion and Middle Tennessee (twice). However they also have losses to South Florida, North Texas, Florida Atlantic and FIU on their resume.

How’d they get here?: After dropping games at FAU and FIU to end the regular season UAB took full advantage of the opportunity to play the conference tournament in Birmingham (but not on their home floor). The Blazers took out WKU and Louisiana Tech before soundly defeating Middle Tennessee in the title game.

Outlook: UAB’s chances next week will depend upon how well they defend, especially when it comes to forcing turnovers. Opponents have given up the ball on nearly 20 percent of their possessions per kenpom.com, and if UAB can turn those mistakes into scoring opportunities in the open floor they can make up for their offensive issues. Given where they’re likely to be seeded that could be tough however, especially when considering the caliber of teams expected to land on the two seed-line.

How do I know you?: UAB will be one of the best stories in the tournament due to the turmoil within the athletic department. Multiple teams were dropped during the winter, most notably the football program, and the basketball team has given the fan base something to cheer about. Could that push this team to even greater heights? We’ll see.