On Friday, November 25th, 2011, the UAB Blazers will travel to INTRUST Bank Arena and face the Wichita State Shockers, the reigning NIT Champions-they defeated Alabama in a 66-57 effort to claim the title. Although the game will not take place on WSU’s campus, it will still count as an UAB away game for RPI purposes. INTRUST Bank Arena opened to the public in early 2010 and has hosted one men’s basketball game to date. Ross Potts Productions is the game’s promoter, and under the current arrangement, both UAB and WSU will be receiving $125,000. Ross Potts and WSU are currently shopping the game to regional and national media outlets as well.
Last year’s solid out-of-conference scheduling helped (winning the C-USA Regular Season outright didn’t hurt either) Mike Davis and the UAB Men’s Basketball team earn an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. Their first return since the 2005-2006 season, UAB’s resume was bolstered by its RPI of 31, a ranking largely attributed to playing teams of merit such as VCU, Duke, Kent State, and Georgia. If you remember Selection Sunday, you’ll recall the importance of having a strong RPI ranking, which is why the announcement of the UAB vs. Wichita State game is big news.
Facing quality opponents before conference play is an imperative for schools in leagues without
ESPN major television contracts, although the new deal with Fox should help alleviate the problem. The theory that if you are not on TV at least once a week, then you’re lacking in quality seems to be disproved season after season with non-power conference schools reaching the Final Four, yet the pundits vehemently refuse to acknowledge reality.
UAB and Wichita State have met three times previously, the most recent match-up taking place in the 2007-2008 season, Mike Davis’s second season at the helm. The Blazers had just orchestrated a 79-76 come-from-behind victory over the Kentucky Wildcats in Freedom Hall, Louisville. UAB continued their road trip to Wichita, Kansas where they would face the Shockers. It would be the first game without second-leading scorer Walter Sharpe who had been averaging 14.2 ppg on the season. The Blazers fell behind early, and the Shockers took a 33-22 lead into the half. Clearly missing the offensive talents of Sharpe, Robert Vaden took the Blazers upon his shoulders and scored 13 points in a late 15-2 run. It was enough to bring the Blazers within three points of the Shockers with just over four minutes left to play; unfortunately, Vaden would foul out one minute later. WSU would win the game 61-52. Vaden scored 23 points to lead all scorers for the night. Mike Davis, Jr. had the second most points for the Blazers with eight.
Before that meeting, UAB and Wichita State traded a home-and-home series over the course of two seasons. On December 12, 1981, the UAB Blazers visited the Shockers in their home arena. At the time, WSU was the 4th ranked team in the nation; however, the Oliver Robinson led Blazers came into the game ranked 8th in the nation, UAB’s highest ranking to date. It was tightly contested game until the midpoint of the first half, when the Blazers hit a cold streak and would not score for a full five minutes. WSU nursed a 40-27 lead at halftime. The poor shooting would continue for UAB in the second half, although Oliver Robinson would finish with 17 points. The Shockers defeated the Blazers by a score of 75-60.
Wichita State would make the return trip to Birmingham the next season. Almost exactly a year later, WSU would meet UAB on December 11, 1982, at the BJCC. Both teams had lost a lot of players to graduation and the NBA, and neither were ranked this time around. A young Blazer squad fell behind early to the tune of 36-15 midway through the first half. However, UAB managed a 21 point turnaround and entered halftime tied 45-45 with WSU. A highly contested second half saw the Blazers jump out to a four point lead, but the Shockers were able to tie the game. UAB held possession for one last shot, but UCLA transfer Cliff Pruit missed the last second attempt. The game headed into overtime, and once more, Cliff Pruit missed a timely shot with 28 seconds left. UAB gained possession once more with an opportunity to win the game, but turned the ball over with seconds to go. Even though the Shockers committed 33 turnovers, Wichita State won the game 89-88. UAB’s McKinley Singleton scored 24 points on 9 of 13 shooting.