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UAB’s Davis: First 4 or last 4, ‘We’re in’

SHARE UAB’s Davis: First 4 or last 4, ‘We’re in’

First four or last four, UAB coach Mike Davis had no complaints Sunday night about the Blazers' placement in the NCAA tournament's new version of play-in games.

Speaking of complaints, there were plenty of those directed at the Blazers' inclusion.

"I don't listen to those guys," Davis said Sunday night. "They can put the numbers up that they want to put up, but you put every number up our numbers are better. Whatever personal issues they have, we're in and they can't vote us out. We're in."

But not quite all the way in, depending on perspective.

The NCAA selection committee picked UAB and Virginia Commonwealth to play in the first "First Four" games in the newly expanded 68-team tournament. The Blazers (22-8) and Clemson (21-11) meet Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio. VCU (23-11) faces Southern California (19-14) the following night in Dayton.

The winners of those and the two matchups of 16th-seeded teams play for the right to hop another plane and face a higher seed on Thursday or Friday.

As for VCU, the Rams didn't even gather to watch the selection show.

"The reason I didn't have the team watch together was because ... if it didn't go our way, I didn't want to put them through watching it together as a team and I didn't want it to be a big event that they remembered and dwelled on moving forward," coach Shaka Smart said. "I knew it could go either way."

Instead, the post-bracket analysis was the only part the Rams were better off skipping. Some pundits felt teams like Colorado, Alabama or Saint Mary's were more worthy.

Clemson's players found their own reason to be miffed: Being sent to Dayton in the first place. It might have put a damper on celebrating a school-record fourth straight NCAA bid.

Relieved and happy? Yes.

"At the same time, some of the players were a little mad" because of the play-in position," point guard Demontez Stitt said. "We felt we deserved a little bit more."

Forward Jerai Grant echoed that sentiment, but added that Clemson wasn't going to let that mood carry over onto the court.

"It's a little bit frustrating not getting that guarantee in the tournament," Grant said. "But I feel like everyone's excited about preparing to play this one."

The UAB-Clemson winner moves on as the 12th seed in the east regional and plays No. 5 West Virginia in Tampa, Fla.

Georgetown awaits whoever emerges from the USC-VCU game in Chicago.

NCAA selection committee chair Gene Smith said chartered planes were waiting for the teams who had to be in Dayton on Tuesday for the short-notice trip.

"You just don't get to take a breath," Clemson coach Brad Brownell.

Even tougher challenges await the 16th-seed survivors. Alabama State faces Texas-San Antonio for the right to play No. 1 overall seed Ohio State — where Smith is athletic director — and UNC-Asheville or Arkansas-Little Rock will play top seed Pittsburgh.

Smith wouldn't reveal which team was the last in — apparently it wasn't VCU, though — or the last nudged out. He defended the choice of UAB, which is 10-7 against top 100 teams in the RPI, 1-4 versus the Top 50 and 4-4 against the Top 60.

"We scrubbed them, looked at them very, very hard," Smith said. "They're a strong ballclub. They played a very good schedule. They executed it well within that schedule. They're just a very good ballclub.

"When we compared them against the others, considering all the different criteria we looked at, we felt they were a team that should be in, and that was the vote of the committee."

As for VCU, Smith called the Rams "one of those teams that a lot of people don't want to play."

The Blazers' Davis, who led Indiana to the 2002 national championship game, was content with his team's destination.

"We deserve whatever they say we deserve," he said. "We're not complaining about anything. We're just happy to be in. We're just happy that they looked at Conference USA as being a good conference and the conference winner should be in."