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  • Writer's pictureKevin Scarbinsky

NCAA > NIT, but never scoff at a title shot like UAB's got

Let's get right to the question of the day, a fun conversation starter during March Madness. Is it better to lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament or win the NIT?

Don't ask me. Ask Andy Kennedy and UAB. They're on the brink of history. By midnight Birmingham time tonight, they may be able to answer that question with authority.

The Blazers went one-and-done in the Big Dance last year. They can capture the NIT championship tonight in Las Vegas. Beat North Texas, which they did three weeks ago in the C-USA Tournament semifinals, and the Blazers will do something no Division I program in this state has done.

Earn a trophy and a banner as the last team on the last line of a postseason bracket. No one else left to survive. Nowhere else still to advance but up a ladder with a pair of scissors. That's where the best kind of basketball memento awaits.

Your snippet of net. Your piece of history. No, it won't earn Jelly Walker or Ty Brewer a cameo on "One Shining Moment," but it's still kind of a big deal. In some ways, going 5-0 after Selection Sunday just means more than a quick round-trip to Pittsburgh for a 14-point defeat.

That's how the 2022 UAB season ended, watching underseeded Houston shoot the lights out en route to an 82-68 win on its way to the Elite Eight. Still, there were plenty of positives for Kennedy's second UAB team. Winning the Conference USA Tournament and getting back to the Big Dance for the first time since 2015. Seeing the national spotlight shine on Jelly's name, image and likeness. Giving national TV a reason to resurrect Ronell to Donell Taylor's twin telepathy and Mo Finley's Kentucky-slaying jumper from 2004.

It all served to remind the rest of the college basketball nation that UAB has a proud history in the sport, and with Kennedy back at his alma mater determined to honor the Gene Bartow Standard, it would be wise to pay attention to the Blazers going forward.

Look at them now 29 wins later with a shot at No. 30. ...

Read the rest of Kevin's reflection on UAB's unprecedented title shot. Only in The Lede.

UAB's Ty Brewer set a program NIT record with 30 points to lift the Blazers into the championship game for the first time.



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