On Wednesday, the heavily-favored Wisconsin Badgers (4-0) begin their Battle 4 Atlantis tournament journey against the UAB Blazers. So far this season, Alabama-Birmingham has played as you would expect an inexperienced team to play, starting 2-2. That doesn't include a one-point loss in an exhibition to UNC-Pembroke.
The Blazers (18-13 last season) are a very young team with only three upperclassmen on the roster. UAB has six freshman and four sophomores, so the team is not expected to be a major threat in Conference USA. Sportsnetwork.com predicts the Blazers finishing seventh in the league this season out of 14 teams.
C.J. Washington (averaging 11.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game this season), and is led in scoring by sophomore Tyler Madison, who is averaging 12.8 points per game.
What to look for from UAB
1. Cleaning the glass
UAB was second in the nation in rebounding last year with 44.5 per game. Despite not rebounding at nearly the same clip this season, the team is still averaging 36 per game. The Blazers have traditionally been an above-average rebounding team even before third-year head coach Jerod Haase took over in Birmingham.
2. Not afraid to hoist shots
The Blazers are averaging 60 shots per game, including 13 attempts from beyond the arc, and are one of the nation's more uptempo teams. However, they are averaging just 30 percent from three-point land and 41 percent overall from the field. If the Blazers do get hot from deep, they could pose a threat for the Badgers because of their pace and propensity to shoot.
3. Ability to get to the line
UAB’s greatest strength offensively may be that it gets to the free-throw line 24.5 times per game. The Blazers sink 51.9 free throws for every 100 field goals attempted, which ranks 30th in the country. And much like Wisconsin, UAB avoids fouling pretty well, too. If the Blazers are able to force UW into foul trouble, look for them to flex their muscles from the charity stripe, where they shoot 72 percent.
4. Does size really matter?
The Badgers can make quick work of the Blazers if they find success inside. Wisconsin's opening foe in the tournament has no players taller than 6’9. The Badgers can use their size, especially with Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Nigel Hayes and Duje Dukan, to pose major problems over the course of the game.
The game tips off at 6 p.m. CT on AXS TV. The winner will play the winner of the late game between Florida and Georgetown.