The WKU non-conference schedule breakdown continues today with two games that will certainly be road trips for The Bracket Board. UAB and Eastern Kentucky will both provide tough tests for the Tops for different reasons.
The Tops will travel to Birmingham to face the Blazers on Tuesday, Nov 29, in what promises to be a rip-roaring affair. UAB has been playing the "40 minutes of hell" brand of hoops under Coach Mike Anderson for a few years now. Out of the 1990's Arkansas mold, they really push the pace and try to speed up the tempo in order to cause havoc for opposing teams. They ran LSU off the court in last year's NCAA tourney in the first round before falling victim to an Arizona team that was hitting it's stride. The Tops are looking to play a similar fast-paced style, though maybe not as Tazmanian devil-ish as UAB would like.
The Blazers lost the Taylor Twins, Donell (15.5 ppg) and Ronell (11.0 ppg), and big man Marques Lewis (8.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg) from last year's squad. They do return waterbug PG Carldell Johnson (2.7:1 Asst/TO ratio, led team in mins), SG Marvett McDonald (77 treys made at 36%), as well as a big-time player in F Demario Eddins (12.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg) up front. All of these guys are seniors and the Blazers have a whopping seven seniors total on the roster. This will be a tough road trip for the Tops.
At this writing, UAB has not released their schedule, but I will post a link and hit the highlights as soon as it is available. This is an experienced team in a weakened CUSA. With Louisville and Cincinnati (and Marquette, and DePaul, and...) off to the Big East, Memphis is the only CUSA team that can legitimately claim to be better than UAB in the preseason. The Blazers should be able to win a lot of games.
The Colonels made an appearance in the NCAA tourney last year for the first time since the BeeGees were bangin' out hits. WKU will boogie across the state to face EKU in a bitter rivalry game on Saturday, December 3. UK and UL soak up most of the media attention in this state, but this a tremendous rivalry. In a football matchup on September 9, WKU just edged EKU, 23-21, on a field goal as time expired in front of a sold out Smith Stadium on the campus of WKU. This rivalry has bite and the Colonels' resurgent hoops program will only pour kerosene on the blaze that has been recently intensified by a bitter EKU loss on the gridiron. Did I mention it was on a field goal as time expired? I did? Oh.
The Colonels lost a good bit from last year's squad including coach Travis Ford. The Kentucky native headed north to attempt a resurrection of the UMass program. They replaced him with a hot assistant coach from a hot program: Jeff Neubauer from West Virginia. I talked to some EKU fans at the WKU/EKU football tilt who were very high on Coach Neubauer. WKU won that game on a last second field goal as time expired. Quite thrilling. EKU also lost solid frontcourt presence F Michael Haney (13.4 ppg, 8.3 rpg) to graduation and G/F Zach Ingles (11.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg) to, um, "other" reasons. They do return nine letter winners led by senior PG Matt Witt (14.4 ppg, 6.3 apg), senior C Alonzo Hird (9.4 ppg, 8.4 rpg), and G Jason McLeish (8.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg). They should be a player in the OVC once again, although Murray State probably has the most overall talent. Of course, Murray State had the most talent last year and lost in the first round of the OVC tourney.
I cannot wait for this trip to Richmond. I expect the Tops and Colonels to square off in a packed and hostile McBrayer Arena (6,500) on Dec. 3. Maybe the Tops can win on a field goal as time expires.
Did I tell you about the WKU/EKU football game?