Two wins are not going to get it done for the UAB men's basketball team. Two wins did put the Blazers in position to get it done, though.
UAB is one win away from making back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. The opportunity to secure that win comes on Saturday night when the Blazers play Conference USA regular-season champion Florida Atlantic in the C-USA Tournament championship game in Ford Arena at the Star in Frisco, Texas.
If you trust the numbers and precedent, FAU has wrapped up, at worst, an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament with what they've done thus far. The Owls improved to 30-3 with a 68-65 victory over Middle Tennessee in the C-USA Tournament semifinals on Friday. They were 18-2 in C-USA regular season play. Heading into Friday, the Owls were ranked No. 15 in the NCAA Net Rankings. They have a non-conference win at Florida.
While that appears to be an NCAA Tournament resume, there is only one guaranteed way to reach the NCAA Tournament for a C-USA team. And that's for Andy Kennedy's Blazers to win the conference tournament.
UAB (25-8) knows for sure that the Blazers' lone way into the Big Dance is to win on Saturday.
"I would say we're definitely confident. You never want to lose that confidence," said UAB guard Jordan "Jelly" Walker. "You're supposed to believe you're the best team every time you step on the floor. Individually, you have to believe you're the best player on the floor. At the end of the day, you still have to respect everybody you play. FAU is a great team, great players, and extremely well-coached. As long as we follow the game plan and listen to what (Kennedy) said, I think we can get it done."
UAB and FAU split a pair of games this season. The Owls beat UAB, 88-86, in Boca Raton on Jan. 5. UAB snapped FAU's 20-game win streak with an 86-77 win over the Owls on Feb. 2 at Bartow Arena.
FAU's biggest strength is probably its balance. Five players average at least nine points per game, with Johnell Davis leading the way at 13.4 points per game. He had 36 points in the win over UAB in January. Seven players have at least 30 3-pointers, with Nick Boyd (58), Alijah Martin (57) and Michael Forrest (51), each surpassing 50.
"Since Jelly's been back, I guess now we're 10-1 in those 11 games," Kennedy said. "Our biggest improvement has been on the defensive side of the ball. (Friday's win over North Texas) was another step forward, and it's going to have to be good (Saturday). We're playing another extremely talented team. A team that's got more offensive options, and we're going to have to be dialed in defensively."
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.