UAB set to open Conference USA Tournament


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — It’s conference tournament week in college basketball, and UAB has its sights set on a Conference USA Tournament title and a spot in the NCAA tournament.

The Blazers open the conference tournament Thursday in Frisco, Texas. They’re coming off a big season under Andy Kennedy, who set a school record for the most wins by a first-year head coach.

“Really proud of him,” UAB Athletics Director Mark Ingram said. “He loves being at UAB, obviously he loves the green and gold and loves our campus and our people and loves Birmingham, and it’s real personal for him.”

The Blazers also won more conference games than any other team in the league, but because tournament seeding was decided by winning percentage, they did not get the top seed in the tournament. They did, however, earn a first-round bye, meaning they’ll need only three victories to claim the title and lock up a spot in the NCAA tournament.

“Championships are so hard to win. They’re just so hard to win,” Ingram said. “And so it would be meaningful, not just for our fans and our coaches, but for our players obviously. And to be able to accomplish something like that is really special.”

It will be a unique experience regardless. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, Conference USA is allowing each team only 100 tickets per session, so the arena won’t be as full as it usually is, especially in the later rounds when attendance tends to increase.

“The first round may not be terribly different than it usually is,” Ingram said. “But by the second round and certainly the third and championship rounds, I’m sure it’ll be very, very different, and we’re hoping to be in it.”

UAB opens tournament play Thursday at 6 p.m. The Blazers will face the winner of tonight’s first-round game between Marshall and Rice.

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