UAB Blazers, Jordan Walker

Perhaps no mid-major team in the country has as experienced and deep a roster as the UAB Blazers, who look to do damage in March.

 

CBB Review is once again ranking the top 100 teams heading into the 2022-23 season. Each day we will reveal the next team until we reach the team slotted at number one. Coming in ranked number 41 are the UAB Blazers.

Last season, the UAB Blazers might have been the best-kept secret in college basketball. But this season, everyone knows about them, as they return one of the most exciting players to watch in college basketball, Jordan “Jelly” Walker. This year’s Blazers team loaded up, putting together a very competitive and versatile starting five, as well as a bench that could go 11 deep in the rotation.

To those who have not, click here to learn more about our preseason top 100 teams in the 2022-23 college basketball season.

Head Coach: Andy Kennedy (16th season overall, 3rd season at UAB)

2021-22 Record: 27-8 (14-4)

2022 Postseason Finish: Lost in NCAA Tournament Round of 64

Notable Departures: Jamal Johnson (Transfer/Chattanooga), Josh LeBlanc Sr. (Transfer/Nicholls), Justin Brown (Graduated), Quan Jackson (Graduated),

Projected Rotation

PG: Jordan “Jelly” Walker (5-11, 170, Sr.)

2021-22 stats: 20.3 points, 4.9 assists, 2.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 39.6 3P%

SG: Tavin Lovan (6-4, 195, Sr.)

2021-22 stats: 8.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.2 steals

SF: Ledarrius Brewer (6-5, 190, Rs.-Sr.)

2021-22 stats: 14.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.2 steals (ETSU)

PF: KJ Buffen (6-8, 230, Sr.)

2021-22 stats: 10.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.1 steals

C: Trey Jemison (6-11, 260, Sr.)

2021-22 stats: 7.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 62.7 FG%

6: Eric Gaines (6-2, 165, So.)

2021-22 stats: 9.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.1 steals (LSU)

7: Ty Brewer (6-7, 200, Sr.)

2021-22 stats: 10.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.4 steals (ETSU)

8: Javian Davis-Fleming (6-9, 265, Rs.-Jr.)

2021-22 stats: 3.5 points, 2.3 rebounds (Mississippi State)

9: Rongie Gordon (6-8, 225, So.)

2021-22 stats: 2.0 points, 2.4 rebounds

10: Tony Toney (6-2, 190, So.)

2021-22 stats: 2.5 points, 0.9 rebounds

11: Tyler Bertram (6-3, 170, Rs.-Jr.)

2021-22 stats: 9.0 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 39.1 3P% (Binghamton)

Team MVP: Jordan Walker

Jordan Walker has completely revitalized his career after spending one year at Seton Hall and spending the next three at Tulane. The Jelly Fam member balled out in year one with UAB and decided to run it back for a fifth season in college basketball.

Walker took off as the season went on, and so did his stock. He was one of 19 players in the country to average 20 points per game, and one of four to do that while averaging at least four assists per game.

Jelly also shot a career-high 39.6% from deep, proving that he can do damage on the court in multiple ways.

This year, expect UAB to be on the national scene, as they are by far one of the best mid-major teams in the country and are a favorite to win a tough Conference USA. And all of that runs through Jordan Walker.

Make-or-Break Player: Javian Davis-Fleming

The Mississippi State transfer comes to a UAB team with a fairly solidified frontcourt. Even though he has power conference experience, it might not put Davis-Fleming into the starting lineup. The Blazers return their starting power forward and center from a year ago, and also bring in Ty Brewer, who excelled as a big at East Tennessee State.

Davis-Fleming showed a lot of promise as a freshman at Alabama before he transferred to the Bulldogs. He averaged exactly six points per game and started 14 games for a Crimson Tide team that finished over .500 in the SEC.

If Davis-Fleming is able to bring his SEC experience to Birmingham, it could give the Blazers an unprecedented four strong big men to have. That would in turn create healthy competition and make UAB one of the most well-rounded teams in the country. 

Analytic to Know: T-6 in PPG in 2021-22

Need more of a reason to back this UAB Blazers squad? They can get buckets with anyone.

The Blazers averaged 80.3 points per game last season, putting them in elite territory in terms of scoring offense.

They return 50 PPG from last season’s rotation and add on another 46.8 PPG through the transfer portal. Obviously, 96.8 PPG (do the math) would be outrageous, but there’s no reason why this UAB Blazers team can’t revisit last year’s potent offense.

After all, Andy Kennedy has historically coached teams that score the basketball. In 15 seasons as a head coach, five of his teams finished in the top 50 in points per game. The makeup of this UAB roster has the chance to make it six in 16 years.

Team Outlook

What intrigues me the most about this UAB Blazers squad is its depth and versatility. Not only do the Blazers have a ton of talent, but the talent covers all positions. There are no weak spots at guard, on the wing, or down low. They’ve got everything, which is scary, especially at the mid-major level.

UAB as a somewhat light non-conference slate, but they will play at West Virginia and at home against South Carolina in the span of five days. That will be a telling sign of what this team might be able to be capable of in March.

But the important thing is to not take Conference USA lightly. There’s a ton of competition, not limited to just Western Kentucky. It’s as deep as the C-USA has been in years, which could help the Blazers out, even more, when it comes to seeding for the NCAA Tournament.

There’s no denying how great this UAB team can be. We’ll just have to wait to see them in action, but its one of the few mid-major teams to keep an eye on as the season unfolds. The Blazers have the potential to make a deep run in the Big Dance.

Projected Conference Finish: 1st in C-USA

Projected Postseason Finish: NCAA Tournament Round of 64 Exit

Ceiling: NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Exit

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