Technically, UAB is still first overall in Conference USA. That’s if you count the out-of-conference record. But for the Blazers, those wins won’t get them anywhere in the C-USA Tournament. The Blazers are coming off a very physical and emotional double-overtime loss to UTEP at Bartow Arena. That was the first conference loss for UAB this season. The Blazers now find themselves in a three-way tie for first place with Tulsa and UTEP.
The loss did more than just knock the Blazers out of the outright first place position in Conference USA. It also dropped them back out of the Top 25. If the poll went to 30, UAB would come in at No. 28 behind Florida State and Cornell.
Don’t expect UAB to give up now that their perfect conference record has a blemish on it. UAB plays UTEP again at the end of the regular season, and they still have far and away the best out of conference resume of any team in C-USA. Most don’t expect UAB to have any trouble making the NCAA Tournament unless the rest of the conference season turns into a complete disaster.
A more pressing matter for UAB is the Memphis game tomorrow at the FedEx Forum. Memphis is notoriously tough at home. They may not be the same Memphis Tigers we are used to seeing over the past several seasons, but make no mistake, when you fill up an arena that large with a rowdy crowd, it’s hard for any team to think straight.
Memphis comes in with a 15-6 record, and also has a home loss to UTEP. They lost to SMU last Saturday- the team that UAB had to come back from 24 down to beat. A win over the Tigers in Memphis would certainly add to the NCAA Tournament resume of UAB. It wouldn’t hurt Memphis to beat UAB, either. Unfortunately for the Tigers, just a win over UAB probably isn’t enough to get them into the Big Dance at this point. For UAB, as long as they win the majority of their remaining games, they are probably in. Memphis may be relegated to the NIT unless they can pull several upsets and win the Conference USA Tournament in Tulsa.
Despite the fact that on paper UAB should probably be able to handle Memphis, this is the biggest rivalry within the conference. UAB and Memphis don’t too much care for each other, and the rivalry between the teams and the fans has continued to build over the years. This is a game that could go either way no matter what kind of season the teams are having.
But fear not Blazer fans, UAB is probably out of the woods as far as worrying about the NCAA’s. Barring a meltdown against the weaker teams left on their conference schedule and losing too many home games they are safely in the Tourney. The Memphis game will be big mainly because it is always big these days. As far as this being a deciding game for the future of both teams- it isn’t this year. And this year- it's UAB who probably gets to play for the big prize, and not Memphis.
UAB plays at Memphis on Wednesday night at 7 P.M. Central. The game will be televised on CBS College Sports.