March 15, 2011
What a ride. UAB celebrated a regular season championship on its home floor a little over a week ago, without an actual trophy to show off to the fans, and then the Blazers headed to El Paso for the C-USA Tournament. The team arrived, eventually, late on Monday night. Two full days of nothing to do (for me, anyway) were followed by a mind-numbing loss to East Carolina on Thursday. That's not a dig at ECU...the Pirates were motivated after watching the Green and Gold celebrate at their expense...it was more a matter of figuring out how and why it happened and what it meant for further post-season hopes.
We had plenty of time to think about it, too. After losing in OT in the first game on Thursday, the team returned to Birmingham on Saturday night. One positive was the time change. We got to "spring forward" on Sunday, so the wait for the NCAA Selection Show wasn't quite as long! But it was still a very long day. Thank goodness it didn't extend into the show itself. The Blazers saw their name appear early, and the celebration resumed.
I will admit I was not optimistic about UAB's chances. I felt the Blazers certainly deserved to get in, but I was afraid the committee wouldn't see things as I did. Thank goodness they did! I could write a lengthy response to all of the things that were said about UAB on Sunday night, but I won't. My only suggestion to the experts on "Selection Sunday" is to think about what you say, make sure you have your facts correct, and think about how you say whatever it is you are going to say about a team. We have all scratched our heads over the years wondering, "How did THEY get in?" Instead of slamming a team, study the complete resume and see if you can figure out why the committee did choose to put a team into the field.
The good news came shortly after 5 PM on Sunday. By 11:30 AM on Monday, the team and travel party were on a plane headed to Dayton to take part in the first-ever "First Four." I must say, getting off a plane and seeing an "NCAA FIRST FOUR" welcome mat at the bottom of the steps is awfully exciting. In the afternoon, UAB went to the arena for a press conference and a light workout, under the watchful eye of Jim Nantz, Steve Kerr, Tracy Wolfson and the rest of the CBS crew. A win tonight and the Blazers will be on another plane headed to Tampa for a Thursday meeting with West Virginia. Once the "madness" begins, things move pretty quickly!
Tonight's match-up with Clemson will be tough. These are two teams that thrive on defense, and I would expect a low-scoring affair at the University of Dayton Arena. The Blazers have played a challenging schedule, and they are accustomed to quick turnarounds and playing several games in a short period of time. I would like to think we'll see a different bunch of Blazers on the floor tonight after what happened in El Paso.
For a basketball fan, the next three weeks are unmatched. It is an amazing experience, and I certainly hope the Green and Gold will appreciate it, enjoy it, and make the most of it.
We'll be on the air at 7:30 PM with pre-game, and tip-off is slated for a little after 8 PM here in Dayton. The game will air on truTV (formerly Court TV), so check your local listings for availability. I wish you were all here to experience it first hand, but I know you'll be rooting on the Blazers wherever you may be.
Let the Madness begin...GO BLAZERS!!!