As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a UAB fan. I’ve also mentioned why I’m a Blazer fan before. Just to give a brief recap why, I realized that – much to the Birmingham media’s chagrin – there was a D1 school in the city, and they deserved my full focus and attention. So, I started wearing the forest green and old gold and I wear it proudly to this day. Now, as a UAB fan, I’m used to experiencing euphoric highs and cataclysmic lows, and they’re normally in the same game. But, I must admit that the 2009-2010 men’s basketball season looked like it would be one of the worst in school history.
The whole season began as a mess. Mike Davis was still the coach, and he was about was close to embattled as one can be. Rumors of him trying to get vaunted recruit DeMarcus Cousins and getting a modification to his letter of intent so he could leave UAB if Davis left were rampant throughout the blogosphere and the internet. Fans were irate at the coach, Coach Davis was irate at the Athletic Director and President, and the A.D. and the President were irate at the idea of doing this inane notion. Long story short, the LOI wasn’t modified, Cousins fled to Memphis with John Calipari – who then fled to Kentucky, and UAB was forced to scramble for players to field a competitive team. It was tantamount to disaster.
Coach Davis did what most coaches would do in that situation; he took the lemons he was given and made lemonade. He took a team who looked to be underachievers and achieved something magical. However, he probably was unaware of it at the time.
The season started in the Hispanic College Fund Tournament, where the Blazers went 2-1, their loss being a fairly inexplicable one to Kent State. They then went on a nine game winning streak, taking out SEC foe Georgia, Big East opponent Cincinnati, and soon-to-be mid-major darling Butler (who is still playing in the NCAA Tournament, I might add) before falling to Virginia in Charlottesville. After that loss, they went on a seven game win streak that saw them get to an 18-2 record and a ranking in the AP Top 25. After that, the wheels started to come off a bit. The team lost six of its last eleven games, including a heartbreaking loss to UTEP in double overtime, two losses to hated rival Memphis, and another loss to UTEP to close out the season. That being said, UAB was still #3 in the conference, had a bye in the C-USA Tournament, and still had a shot at an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament.
The C-USA tournament was looked at as a last hope for the Blazers, but they met a pesky Southern Miss team who had a penchant of uglying up a game…which they did in no short order. The Blazers fell to Southern Miss, and their NCAA chances fell with them. Thankfully, they accepted a bid to the NIT, and their first game was against the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. The Chanticleers were coached by former Alabama basketball coach Cliff Ellis, and there was a big to-do about Cliff coming to Birmingham.
I’m sure if Cliff had his choice, he would’ve preferred staying away.
The Blazers routed the Chanticleers in the opening round by a score of 65-49 in Bartow Arena, and this set up a meeting against ACC opponent North Carolina State. NC State came to Birmingham with an attitude unmatched, but they also got run out of the gym, as UAB beat them 72-52. The Blazers led from the opening tip to the final seconds, and that led to a matchup against the North Carolina Tarheels – or, as I’d like to call them, the University of College Basketball in America.
The game was completely different than the previous two matchups; UNC came in and took an early lead, but the Blazers battled back to tie the game at 25 heading into the locker room. The second half was more of the same, but mental errors that had doomed the Southside Boys throughout their losing streaks in February and March doomed them again, as they fell 60-55 and missed a trip to Madison Square Garden.
All things considered, this was a great team that was mistakenly overlooked, and the Seniors who helped lead the way will be missed. So, to the Southside Boys of the 2009-2010 season, this Blazer fan says, “Thank you.”
Thank you, and GO BLAZERS!!!
NOTE: As my fellow Blazer brethren have pointed out to me, Cliff Ellis was the former coach at Auburn University, not the University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa. My apologies to Coach Ellis and both institutions for that error.