Searching the field of six-four, it's hard to come up with more of a giant killer than UAB. As a ninth seed they knocked no.1 seed Kentucky out of the tournament in 2004. In last years NCAA tournament the no.11 seed UAB knocked out no.6 seed LSU.
It would stand to reason that Tubby Smith would secretly tell you that he would rather be playing somebody else. The Blazers return four of the five starters that defeated the Wildcats in 2004.
They are a team that possesses blazing speed, no pun intended. The Kentucky fans remember Carldell "Squeaky" Johnson who ran their team crazy. The term or name squeaky attached to a human rather than a door, a loose board in the floor, or a bed- spring, exudes speed and quickness. And that's what UAB is all about!
As we remember, the Wildcats were not prepared for the speedy onslaught of the Blazers. Kentucky had to play the speedy Florida A&M Rattlers in the NCAA opener and conventional wisdom would speak to the fact that that was a huge problem. The Wildcats had to come back and play the Blazers in less than thirty-six hours. Were their legs recovered from the fight the Rattlers put up that extended the Cat's?
Possibly Tubby Smith will be better prepared to deal with the speed this time. In the first place, UAB will not have Florida A&M to soften up the Cats. The problem with dealing with a team such as UAB is the speed cannot possibly be simulated in practice. In any sport, it creates a problem in actual competition.
We don't portend to formulate Tubby Smith's game plan but we would expect him to try to control the tempo as much as possible. Given the 9-rebound deficit per game of UAB, Smith could possibly get that done.
A supposed old friend Nolan Richardson prior to the UAB game snookered Smith in 2004. Smith entrusted Richardson in his practice session and Richardson took information back to UAB head coach Mike Anderson. Anderson happened to be a former player under Richardson and he was an assistant under him at Arkansas.
The Blazers have been a longtime nemesis to the Wildcats dating back to the 1980-81 season. "I was on that team that got knocked out of the NCAA by UAB," Jim Master said. "The thing is we had beat them earlier in the season in a hard fought battle in the finals of the UKIT." The no.1 seeded Wildcats were led by Sam Bowie and Dirk Minniefield.
Perhaps the team put on the map by former UCLA coach Gene Bartow will go away quietly but possibly they like the roll of giant killer! Stay tuned!