Crunching numbers and charting rankings that change daily has been part of the process for folks interested in the UAB men’s basketball team this season.
Andy Kennedy, the Blazers head coach, said before his team’s two-game trip to Florida last week that he checks the NCAA Net rankings on a daily basis. After a frustrating road trip, though, his routine can change if he chooses.
“Prior to Saturday, I’m just being honest, we all played the numerical game in our head as it relates to strength of schedule and numbers,” Kennedy said on Tuesday during his weekly press conference at Bartow Arena. “There’s no reason for us to look at that anymore.”
In other words, UAB’s shot at putting together a resume that the NCAA Tournament selection committee would deem worthy of an at-large berth ended with the 90-87 overtime loss to FIU. The 88-86 loss to FAU, which came two days earlier, still left the Blazers with a shot, Kennedy said. FAU was No. 11 in the Net rankings at the time and was favored to beat UAB. Conceivably, the Blazers’ NCAA Tournament resume would remain solid with a road loss to FAU, which is now 14-1.
Losing to a FIU team that is currently 241st in the Net rankings, however, was a different matter.
“We knew that you don’t have to be perfect but you certainly have to avoid bad losses, no disrespect intended,” Kennedy said. “We suffered a bad loss (to FIU) and now we know what our fate is. To be honest with you, this probably is what our fate was when we started in November. It is what it is. We’ve got to start working on getting better, so that we put ourselves in the best position possible to play our best basketball when we need it.”
The current C-USA configuration, which began in 2014-15, has never had an at-large berth in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The last time the conference got more than one team in the tournament came in 2010-11 when Memphis won the conference tournament and regular season champion UAB earned an at-large bid. The previous season, Houston upset regular season champion UTEP in the C-USA championship game and the Miners were given an at-large bid.
The last time C-USA was considered a multi-bid league was in 2004-05 when Cincinnati, UAB, Charlotte and Louisville all played in the tournament.
“To be honest with you, there’s times I say things that I don’t quite frankly believe, it’s part of my job,” Kennedy said of his talk about the possibility of an at-large berth. “This league has never been a multi-bid league. I didn’t really have any thought that this year was going to be a different year, unless somebody just had a remarkable run through league.”
It’s still possible that team could be FAU, if the Owls don’t lose again in the regular season and drop a game in the conference. The chance that UAB could be that team has probably slipped away.
“You think about it, we beat two SEC teams (Georgia and South Carolina), we beat an AAC team (South Florida), we drop a game to Toledo early in the season,” Kennedy said. “You don’t know how problematic that’s going to be, but (Toledo) dropped a few since. Then we have an incredible opportunity from my friend Bob Huggins at West Virginia, and we didn’t take advantage of it. Going into the season, what really did we have to hang our hat on, other than beating two SEC teams that, at the end of the day, will be playing early in that SEC Tournament.”
UAB is still capable of putting together a special season. The Blazers are 12-4 overall and 3-2 in C-USA, and their goals are still in front of them. They can continue working on those goals when Western Kentucky comes to Bartow Arena on Wednesday night. But, that special season probably won’t include an at-large ticket into the Big Dance.
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