It was UAB and everyone else in the 2016 Conference USA basketball tournament. After the Blazers' sterling 16-2 conference record, there's a block of solid, if unspectacular seasons from Middle Tennessee (13-5) and Louisiana Tech, Old Dominion and Marshall (each 12-6). UTEP (10-8) is the only other team with a winning conference record, as Charlotte was .500 and everyone else was below that.
After earning its third-ever regular season C-USA championship, UAB was set as the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament and the favorite to earn the conference's NCAA tournament auto bid. The Blazers' 26 overall wins during the 2015-16 season are the most in the school's history.
Unfortunately, the Blazers slipped up at the worst possible time, suffering an 88-77 loss to Western Kentucky in the quarterfinal round. Without a strong at-large resume, Jerod Haase's squad now seems destined for the NIT.
UAB's loss opens up the field, with Old Dominion booking its spot in the final round. The Monarchs will face Middle Tennessee for the conference's auto-bid on Saturday.
Every Conference USA team qualifies for the tournament except for Southern Mississippi (5-13 record), who is ineligible for this year's postseason due to previous violations. In the first round on March 8, the two lowest seeds, No. 12 Florida Atlantic and No. 13 UTSA, will face each other for the right to play No. 5 Old Dominion in the second round the next day. The four highest seeds (UAB, Middle Tennessee, Marshall and Louisiana Tech) receive byes through the first two rounds and won't play until the quarterfinals on March 10.
2. Middle Tennessee
4. Louisiana Tech
5. Old Dominion
8. Western Kentucky
9. North Texas
12. Florida Atlantic
Schedule and Results (all times Eastern)
Tuesday, March 8 (First Round)
Game 1: No. 12 Florida Atlantic 82, No. 13 UTSA 58
Wednesday, March 9 (Second Round)
Game 2: No. 8 Western Kentucky 84, No. 9 North Texas 76
Game 3: No. 5 Old Dominion 72, No. 12 Florida Atlantic 46
Game 4: No. 7 Charlotte 79, No. 10 Rice 69
Game 5: No. 6 UTEP 85, No. 11 FIU 77
Thursday, March 10 (Quarterfinals)
Game 6: No. 8 Western Kentucky 88, No. 1 UAB 77
Game 7: No. 5 Old Dominion 68, No. 4 Louisiana Tech 52
Game 8: No. 2 Middle Tennessee 79, No. 7 Charlotte 61
Game 9: No. 3 Marshall 87, No. 6 UTEP 85
Friday, March 11 (Semifinals)
Game 10: No. 5 Old Dominion 89, No. 8 Western Kentucky 77
Game 11: No. 2 Middle Tennessee 99, No. 3 Marshall 90
Saturday, March 12 (Championship)
Game 12: No. 2 Middle Tennessee 55, No. 5 Old Dominion 53
* * *
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