The conference season is going to begin in earnest this week. The league instituted the new schedule policy to reduce travel and it means UAB will be in in town for two games to start the 2021. I’ll be honest with you and admit I have not watched one minute of UAB basketball this season thus far. They have played just two top-200 teams and split, with the most recent loss to Chattanooga being their lone loss of the season.
The Blazers fired previous head coach Rob Ehsan, and hired former UAB player Andy Kennedy. He likes more pace than the man he replaced and that is evident early in the season. UAB is playing with a KenPom Adjusted Tempo of 72.2 compared to last season’s 65. North Texas, as you might remember, plays at a crawl to get Javion Hamlet in a pick and roll situation.
UAB has played good defense so far but against that weak competition we mentioned. They boast three dudes to worry about.
- Jalen Benjamin, Soph guard who has scored in double-figures in all but two games this year. He scored 14 in NT’s win back in February, if you remember back that far.
2. Tavin Lovan, Jr wing who has also topped double-digits in most games this season. He had 17 vs NT last time out back in the Spring.
3. Michael Ertel, 6’2, Sr wing transfer from ULM. He was the best dude on the Monroe squads and thus far been the leading scorer for the Blazers. He had 18 vs Chattanooga and 19 vs ETSU. He’s a threat.
For North Texas, if you have not been paying close attention, things are going well. NT lost against the three best team they faced in Arkansas, Miss St, and West Virginia, but they played much better against WVU and even led for a stretch. Sure, it was moral victory, but those are useful.
NT proceeded to pad the stats and the win column. Arkansas Pine Bluff offered little resistance and neither did Houston Baptist. NT won by nearly the same score. The schedule originally called for LSU — you know, the SEC squad — to be the opponent on Dec 22nd but that was cancelled. NT found LSU Alexandria. to beat up on and scored 110 in the win.
As preparation for a conference season it left much to be desired but in 2020, and going into the next year, it is important to be flexible. This is the first time we will see the back-to-back games against the same team and will no doubt have some quirks. The teams that can adjust quickly should benefit, and poor shooting streaks will be punished harshly. That is all part of the game, however.
How Entertained Will I Be?
Of this site’s readers, there are about 20-30% that are die-hard hoops fans and watch no matter what. Your entertainment comes from collecting all the games as checklist items in the watch category.
For the rest of you fans who range from “I know we are good this year so I’ll watch a little” to “I love our team even though I do not know who is on it” you will probably not have to change the channel from the Bowl games or whatever else is going on.
UAB is not a particularly good team, and while they like to play fast, they are in Year One, so there are a lot of mistakes. There is always entertainment in watching Javion Hamlet do his thing, and if my suspicion proves true he should be able to have is way with the UAB defense. Then again, it will be after a week that included Christmas and off some competition that was pretty weak so there may be some rust for the team as a whole.
Conference play is about getting Ws and less about developing the team, but you also want to play your best at conference tournament time and not necessarily now.
To that end we want to see Mardrez McBride continue to feel comfortable. Same goes for Rubin Jones, who has been pretty solid.