Averaging 23 wins the past four seasons, and not finishing worse than third in Conference USA, the UAB Blazers have established themselves as a league contender year in and year out under Mike Davis. It is unlikely that they (or any other C-USA team for that matter) will catch Memphis this season, but the Blazers should be one of the teams battling it out for second place.
UAB will rely on their experience up front this season since they lose their starting backcourt. Cameron Moore made a huge leap as a full-time starter in his junior season, averaging 14 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, compared to the 3.1 points and 3.2 boards he averaged as a sophomore. Ovie Soko also took advantage of his starting spot last season, utilizing his athleticism as a scorer and rebounder.
The Blazers scored a great get just recently by adding former St. Joseph's center Todd O'Brien who chose to transfer to Birmingham, and becomes eligible right away since he will be a graduate student. O'Brien is a true seven-footer who led the Hawks in rebounding two seasons ago. JUCO transfer Alexander Scotland-Williamson also provides size off the bench and should compete with freshman Herb Harrison for playing time.
The backcourt is undergoing a major facelift due to the graduation of Jamarr Sanders and Aaron Johnson, and Dexter Fields' recent decision to transfer. Johnson led the nation in assists per game last season and will likely be replaced in the starting lineup by Quincy Taylor, who was a key reserve as a freshman. Freshman K.C. Whitaker is considered the best of the Blazers' freshman class even though he missed most of his senior year of high school due to a wrist injury, and will back up Taylor at the one.
The two spots on the wing are for grabs. Preston Purifoy and Robert Williams saw minutes off the bench and are the favorites to be in the starting lineup. Purifoy is a bigger guard and solid three-point shooter. Davis will need him to pick up a big chunk of the scoring slack left behind by Sanders.
UAB also picked up a late signing with the addition of JUCO transfer Jekore Lee. He is a combo guard who will likely be one of Davis' first options off the bench. Freshman Isiah Jones will also try to work himself into the rotation.
Player to Watch: Cameron Moore, F/C
The Blazer senior briefly tested the NBA Draft waters after blowing up last season but wisely decided to return for his senior season. He does have league potential but will benefit from being the guy at UAB this season. Moore has a nice inside/outside game, knows how to crash the boards, and was also one of the top shot blockers in the conference.