NCAA tournament team previews: Alabama-Birmingham Blazers
As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 19-15 (12-6 in Conference USA)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 103.8 (130th)/100.3 (130th)
Seed: No. 14 in South
Impact player: Robert Brown, junior, guard: 12.8 ppg, 3.0 apg, 100.7 offensive rating.
The Case For: The Blazers dropped four of their final seven games in the regular season before ripping off three wins in the Conference USA tournament to earn an automatic bid. That run included a 10-point, overtime win over top seed Louisiana Tech and a 13-point win against Middle Tennessee in the championship game in which UAB shot 52 percent from the field and scored 1.26 points per possession. It will be difficult for the Blazers to replicate that performance on the offensive end, but the hot streak in the league tourney bodes well for their chances of pushing their first opponent in the NCAAs. It’s promising that Brown, who leads the team in points and assists per game, delivered one of his best performances of the season (22 points, five rebounds, four assists) in the C-USA title game. Even though UAB probably won’t advance past the round of 64, making the tourney is an especially positive development in light of the school shutting down its football program in December.
The Case Against: The Blazers' resume does not suggest that they're capable of knocking off a superior team on a neutral court. They fell to every Power 5 league team they faced during the nonconference portion of their schedule (Wisconsin, Florida, UCLA, LSU and North Carolina) and dropped six games in a conference ranked 17th in the country by Ken Pomeroy. Two of those losses came at the end of the regular season to teams (Florida Atlantic and Florida International) ranked 296th and 268th, respectively, in Pomeroy’s rankings. About a month earlier, UAB lost consecutive games to North Texas (241) and Rice (205). While it’s encouraging that coach Jerod Haase’s team strung together three wins in the conference tournament, the Blazers will be an easy out in the NCAAs if they regress to their regular season form. UAB finished outside the nation’s top 125 in adjusted offense and defense, turned the ball over on more than 20 percent of its possessions and struggled to keep opponents off the offensive glass, allowing them to grab one-third of their missed shots.
SI prediction: Lose to Iowa State in Round of 32