Men’s basketball preview: FAU to host two of Conference USA’s best teams in UAB and Middle Tennessee

The Blazers and the Blue Raiders are currently third and first respectively in the standings.


FAU head coach Michael Curry directs his players on where to be during the Owls loss to Miami in 2016-17. Photo by Mohammed F. Emran

Hans Belot Jr., Sports Editor

After coming away winless in its road trip to Texas last week, Florida Atlantic men’s basketball will be looking to bounce back this week when it hosts two of Conference USA’s best teams.

The Owls (5-11, 1-4 Conference USA) were unable to come up victorious against either the University of Texas-El Paso or the University of Texas San Antonio, falling 68-63 versus the Roadrunners Thursday and then suffering a 66-65 overtime loss to the Miners on Saturday.  

FAU welcomes two of the top three teams in the conference standings – the University of Alabama-Birmingham and Middle Tennessee State University. Both teams have combined for just one loss in conference play this season.

Here’s a preview of both matchups:

UAB Blazers:

After starting the season 7-7, the Blazers (11-7, 4-1 Conference USA) have won their last four games, all of which have been in conference play.

The win streak has been in big part thanks to their defense, as UAB ranks fifth out of 14 teams in Conference USA in scoring defense, allowing teams to score 69.4 points per game.

The Blazers also are the third-best field goal percentage defense team in the conference and the sixth ranked three-point field goal percentage defense. Their defense allows opponents to shoot 41.5 percent on the floor and 34.4 percent from three respectively.

Lee William has been a brick wall in the paint for the Blazers, leading the conference in blocked shots per game by averaging 2.8 blocks per game. UAB as a team average 5.4 blocks per game, which is the second highest total in the conference.

The Owls, who are the seventh best scoring team in Conference USA while averaging 70.4 points per game, will have to move the ball to keep the Blazers’ defense on their feet. FAU averages 12.6 assists per game, which is ranked 12th in the conference.

Because of the Blazers’ good interior defense, FAU will have to continue to knock down 3-pointers like it has all season. Although they shoot just 35 percent from deep, the Owls average seven makes per game, which ranks fifth in the conference.

Offensively, UAB is the sixth best scoring team in the conference, averaging 73.1 points per game, yet it has no players netting more than 14 points per game individually.

The Blazers balanced scoring is led by Lee’s 12.9 points per game. He also leads the team in rebounds with 6.6 per game.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Conference USA’s fifth ranked scoring team is led by the dynamic trio of Giddy Potts, Reggie Upshaw and JaCorey Williams.

The trio combines for 65 percent of the team’s scoring, led by Upshaw’s 17.9 points per game, followed by Williams’ and Potts’ 15.2 points per contest each.

The Blue Raiders (15-3, 5-0 Conference USA) as a team average 74.7 points per game on 48 percent shooting, which is ranked second in the conference.

Middle Tennessee also averages 16 assists per game, which is third in the conference.

The Owls have been average this season on defense, allowing opponents to score 71.4 points per game, which is seventh in the conference.

FAU also allows opponents to shoot 42.9 percent from the field. The Owls will need to slow down the Blue Raiders’ big three, who shoot a combined 50 percent from the field.

The Blue Raiders’ defense has also been as good as their offense, which allows opponents to score just 65.5 points per game, ranked second in the conference. Middle Tennessee also allows opponents to shoot only 34 percent from three point range.

FAU will play UAB on Thursday, Jan. 19, at 8 p.m., and Middle Tennessee on Saturday Jan. 21 at 7 p.m. Both games will be played at FAU Arena.

Hans Belot Jr. is the sports editor of the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him at @Don_Phenom_.