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  • Brad Cummings

Lets Go Dancing: Houston Preview

How to Watch/Listen

Where: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - PPG Paints Arena

When: March 18 @ 8:20 CT


Radio: 100.5

The UAB Blazers have made it into the NCAA tournament for the first time in seven years and will take on the Houston Cougars. Of course, it’s great to get back into the “big dance” but isn’t this matchup kind of cool? You can look at this in a couple of different ways. First, this is an old Conference USA matchup since Houston was formerly in CUSA. Second, soon to be new American Athletic Conference (AAC) member UAB playing against a soon to be Big 12 Conference member Houston. The Blazers will be the number 12 seed in the South Region and will take on the number 5 seed Cougars. For those that follow the NCAA tournament each year there seems to always be a 12 seed knocking off a 5 seed. Does UAB have a chance at upsetting a team that just went to the Final Four last season?

John Duncan

The Houston Cougars come into Friday night’s matchup with a record of 29-5 and pretty much blowing out most teams they played in the AAC. If you are a fan of KenPom or any other stat site then you’d know that they all love this Houston team. You’ll hear no argument from me about them being good because the stats don’t lie. However, this team is no Goliath and can certainly be beat. Memphis was able to take down the Cougars 2 out of 3 times this season. Also, two of their top players (Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark) unfortunately got injured a few months back and have been out for the rest of the year. Like I mentioned on my podcast with Steve (Blazer Victory Podcast - I think UAB does have a chance at beating the Cougars. Here are my 3 keys to victory for UAB:

1. Force turnovers. This will be tough because Houston is very efficient on offense, but they have shown a couple of times this year that they can turn the ball over some. In fact, in both losses to Memphis this year Houston turned the ball over 19 times and 20 times respectively. UAB will need to play a lot of full court press like they have been doing all year and hope that Quan Jackson can cause havoc in the backcourt. One can argue too that UAB will definitely have to take care of the ball while they’re on offense and can’t have many turnovers of their own to be able to have a chance in this game.

2. Hit your three-point shots. Unfortunately for UAB, Houston is really good at defending the three pointer. However, the Blazers are really good at hitting the 3 and have especially done that well here lately. The Blazers will need Jordan “Jelly” Walker and Mike Ertel to continue their hot three-point shooting into this week’s NCAA tournament if they want to move on to the round of 32.

3. Fouling is ok if it isn’t Trey Jemison getting into foul trouble. So, this kind of ties back to the first point in being aggressive and playing a full-court press against Houston but that usually means the referees might call a bunch of fouls on UAB. Good thing for the Blazers is that the Cougars are one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the country this year. According to Rotowire they are ranked 321st in the country making only 66.89% of their free throws per game. We definitely need Trey Jemison to stay out of foul trouble. That was something he couldn’t do during the CUSA tournament. Andy Kennedy even joked that he got called for a foul the minute the plane touched down in Texas. Even though Rongie Gordon played well in stretches in Frisco, Texas, both Middle Tennessee and Louisiana Tech were able to take advantage when Jemison was out.

Brad Cummings

Houston is big, fast, and very good at what they do. Kelvin Sampson has brought something to Houston that had been missing for a long time at that program...Culture. In that same aspect Andy Kennedy has said that he looks at this Houston program as a catalyst for what he wants to do at UAB. Coach Kennedy wants UAB to be nationally relevant again making deep runs in March. So far so good for Coach Kennedy and the UAB basketball team when it comes to being nationally relevant. Have you seen the love Barstool has for UAB and Jordan Jelly Walker? Following the 3 overtime thriller against Middle Tennessee it is said that Jordan Jelly Walker had 10+ million mentions on social media platforms! Yes, TEN million! That is TEN million eyes not just on Jelly, but also on that UAB brand across his chest. National relevance seems to have been checked off the list. Now if they truly want to model a program like Houston, they need to make a deep run. It starts Friday night in Pittsburgh.

Here are 3 keys to victory:

1. Rebounding will determine the outcome. It is no secret that Houston wants to control the boards and for the most part they have this season. They are one of the top offensive rebounding teams in the country. I heard one of their local media members comment that sometimes they believe that the Houston offense works better if they just miss their shots and went for second chance points. So what does this mean for UAB? The Blazers must win on the defensive glass. There is no other option here. If the Blazers do not win on the defensive glass it will be very hard to beat this Cougar basketball team.

2. Have we learned from the past? This will not be the first time UAB has played a team that is similar to Houston. Actually, you could say UAB has played several other teams that are very similar to how Houston plays. Unfortunately, some of the Blazers loses this year have come against those teams. A team that Coach Kennedy said is very similar to this Houston squad is none other than South Carolina. Like Houston, South Carolina was a big, strong, physical, and long basketball team. Like Houston, South Carolina focuses on defense and rebounding. Others who come to mind are ODU as well as West Virginia. The common theme with those schools is that UAB lost to all three. So, like I asked, have we learned from the past?

3. Control Fabian White Jr. The heart and soul of this Houston team is Senior Forward Fabian White Jr. He was voted First Team All-Tournament and was named the Most Outstanding Player during the AAC tournament. He has also played in the most games and is the winningest player in Houston basketball history. When it comes to a player that sets the culture for Houston, it is Fabian White Jr. He currently averages 13.2 points a game while averaging 6 rebounds. Houston leans on his leadership and experience. I believe KJ Buffin will get the assignment on Fabian so that should make for a great matchup.

Staff Predictions:

John Duncan

I think UAB comes in and does all 3 of the key points I made and pulls the upset over Houston. Go ahead, call me a homer.

UAB 64 - Houston 59

Brad Cummings

Heart or mind? My heart says go with UAB. My mind says Houston might be too much. I'm going to go with my heart this time. I think we learn from the mistakes we made this year against similar teams and pull out a close one.

UAB 71 - Houston 68


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