Tuesday, December 29, 2009

game preview: UAB

So we're back. Hope your Christmas was a good one. Lots of schwag from Santa's bag, family, big-ass ham or turkey or other tasty animal (or maybe latkes if you maybe light a menorah instead of a tree), too many cookies, mistletoe, the works.

The hoopsters had a pretty good time of it while FOV was on break, but only against the crappiest of crappy competition; we didn't get the answer to whether or not UNC-Wilmington would be the roadblock we worried about. Everybody played against both NJIT and Hampton, which is about the extent of the analysis you need - both games were slaughters, as expected. We'll get our crack at Wilmington in a few more weeks.

Might seem like the Wilmington game will be diminished in importance, what with it now coming in the middle of the ACC season, but I say just the opposite. There's a scary-real chance we'll need that game to break up a three-game losing streak.

Anyway, the task at hand is UAB. And if you weren't convinced by their #24 ranking in the AP poll, I'll tell you right now: we're as underdoggy as we'll be in a lot of our ACC games this year. UAB already has one major-conference skin on their wall (Cincinnati) and a win over never-shabby Butler. They'll probably be a tournament team this year.

The good news is Mike Scott is back on the court, and should probably be in action tomorrow. We'll need him in order to take advantage of (what I think is) UAB's weakness - they're very much a donut team. No middle. They start four guards and a forward, and they rely very heavily on their starting five. Pretty strict 8-man rotation, and only three forwards in the group, two of which are bench players and really don't even get half the minutes of the guards. On the offensive end, if we can get the post players involved, Scott especially but also Sene, Sherrill, and/or Meyinsse, we ought to be able to find a mismatch somewhere. Either that or force them to take their better players off the court.

At the other end, UAB would seem to be the kind of team we match up well against. There's only one real scoring threat down low - that'd be forward Howard Crawford, whom a healthy Mike Scott would dominate on the boards - and they don't rely all that much on the three-pointer nor shoot it exceptionally well. It's the kind of offense the pack-line should handle pretty well. What worries me is Elijah Millsap. In our losses, we've been vulnerable to shred-a-thons by the opposition's top guy. Penn State had Talor Battle. USF had Dominique Jones. Stanford had Landry Fields. They all topped 20 points and mostly without needing a lot of three-pointage to do it. Millsap is both a scorer and rebounder, and the #1 worry for this game would be that he decides it's a good time for 26 points.

The other obvious worry is the talent gap, which sucks to say as an ACC team going into a game with a C-USA team. Mismatches go both ways - if we can find them with our size, they should be able to find a few by forcing our bigs to guard their quicker players. Jerome Meyinsse is many things, but quick is not one of them. This will probably be a closer game than the rankings and records would indicate, but, as with pretty much every game from here on out, we need to do everything right in order to come out on top.

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