Conference USA (22-11, 11-5)
NIT Seed: #7
Big Wins: 11/18 at Arizona (72-71), 11/22 at Old Dominion (77-62), 1/21 UTEP (78-73)
Bad Losses: 12/6 at Cincinnati (80-87), 1/10 at Houston (56-75), 3/13 vs Tulsa (67-70)
Coach: Mike Davis
Paul Delaney III, Senior, Guard, 16.0 ppg, 3.5 apg, 2.1 spg
Channing Toney, Senior, Guard, 8.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg
Robert Vaden, Senior, Guard, 17.5 ppg, 2.1 apg, 5.0 rpg
Howard Crawford, Junior, Forward, 8.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg
Lawrence Kinnard, Senior, Forward, 14.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg
Aaron Johnson, Sophomore, Guard, 3.7 ppg, 3.6 apg
Cameron Moore, Freshman, Forward, 3.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg
Why They Can Surprise:
UAB’s success can be attributed to their experienced backcourt. And, of course, it all starts with Robert Vaden. The 6-5 wing is a prolific three-point shooter and averages 17.5 points per game. He will use his size to get to the basket and grab some rebounds and he will use his ball handling skills to find his teammates and dribble around slower defenders. Channing Toney is nowhere near as productive as Vaden, but he can put up quite a few points in a hurry.
The return of Paul Delaney III, who missed most of the 2007-2008 season with an injury, gives the Blazers another big time scoring threat. Delaney is also the point guard and dishes out 3.5 assists per game. Aaron Johnson took over the point guard duties last year when Delaney III went out and now he is a quality and experienced backup. However, Johnson has started quite a few games alongside of Delaney III this year and Coach Mike Davis has no problem putting both of his ballhandlers on the floor at the same time. That is why UAB commits just 11.4 turnovers per contest.
Why They Can Disappoint:
But if Coach Davis starts Johnson and moves Vaden to the four spot, there is virtually no backcourt depth to come in off the bench. The Blazers lost three perimeter players early in the season due to personal or academic issues. The depth up front is not much better and the Blazers have to stay out of foul trouble. Rebounding is the other big problem and outside of starting forward Lawrence Kinnard, there are not any great rebounders on the team. Vaden will do his fair share on the boards, but players like part-time starting forward Howard Crawford need to be tougher on the glass.
Who To Watch:
Kinnard does a lot more than just nab 9.0 rebounds per contest. He has developed into a great scorer who can bang in the paint or step outside and hit the three-pointer. His range does go out beyond the arc, but he only connects on 30.8 percent of his three-point attempts and he would be a more efficient shooter if he took a step or two closer to the basket. Kinnard is also a decent defender who does a great job of staying out of foul trouble. And on a team that has very little depth, it is important that UAB can keep a dynamic scoring threat like Kinnard on the floor.
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 72.8 (91st in nation, 5th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 65.5 (111, 3)
Field-Goal Percentage: 46.1 (69, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.5 (129, 5)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.7 (121, 4)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 33.5 (184, 6)
Free-Throw Percentage: 71.7 (79, 6)
Rebound Margin: 0.2 (178, 8)
Assists Per Game: 12.9 (173, 8)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.4 (11, 3)
Joel’s Bracket Says: Elite Eight loss to UNLV