Who do you like in Thursday's NCAA Tournament game between UAB and Iowa State? Following Wednesday's practice at KFC Yum! Arena in Louisville, Jerod Haase told me that his UAB players are confident they can compete with 25-8 ISU, saying, "We only have to be great for a two-hour span on Thursday, and I think our kids believe."
Iowa State, a long lean team that trailed by double digits in their last 5 games only to come back to win (a big victory over Kansas, the alma mater of Haase included), is a decided favorite. Still, UAB freshman forward William Lee told me Wednesday that he is confident the underdogs can be the big dogs on Thursday. Said Lee, "I know we are playing a great team, but we have had comeback wins as well."
One of the motivating factors for the Blazers? To bring joy to a UAB nation that has gone through turbulent times with the folding of their football program. Says UAB guard Denzell Watts, "The students here have shown us a lot of love and we just want to thank them for that."
Speaking of football, former UAB football coach Garrick McGee, now the offensive coordinator of the Louisville Cardinals sat courtside on Wednesday to watch practice.
While shying away from talking about UAB's turbulent times in football, he did tell me, "This looks like where Jerod Haase belongs. I got to see him in some games and his team is tough, they're young. Maybe they won't realize how big of a stage they are on and they will just play well. I knew that once Jerod got his heels in the ground the program would end up changing."
The Blazers know they have a huge mountain to climb on Thursday morning. Blazer forward HaHa Lee tells me he received his nickname from his grandfather, as Lee always laughed as a young boy. Lee and the Blazers hope to be laughing come Thursday afternoon.