HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Basketball still carries much weight at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the Blazers' line of coaches proves as much.
Former Memphis State and UCLA coach Gene Bartow launched the Blazers' program in 1978 and passed the torch to son Murry in 1996. Mike Anderson came along then after 17 years as an assistant under Nolan Richardson at Arkansas, finished by a short stint as interim head coach.
In 2006, UAB landed just-fired Indiana coach Mike Davis. He won 122 games in six seasons, but his Blazers suffered some epic March flameouts and went 15-16 a year ago.
That sent the school looking for a new coach, and it landed Jerod Haase. If you don't know that name, you know his former boss's name - Roy Williams. Haase played a substantial part in Williams' success at Kansas and North Carolina for 12 years.
This was not a low-profile hire.
"You're at the top of the food chain, you can be selective," said Marshall coach Tom Herrion. "He did a marvelous job for Coach Williams at Kansas and North Carolina. He was in a situation where he didn't have to take any job, and he got a good job."
Haase will bring his Blazers into Cam Henderson Center tonight to play Marshall in an important game as far as sorting out the Conference USA standings. Tipoff time is 7 p.m.
The Thundering Herd (12-15 overall, 5-7 C-USA) and Blazers (12-14, 4-7) are eighth and ninth in the conference order, but the picture looks a little better for tonight's winner.
First, you can move the teams up a spot because of third-place Central Florida's postseason ban. Second, consider there will be five first-round byes in the 11-team C-USA tournament.
Marshall is a full game behind Tulsa for the fifth spot, a half-game behind No. 6 Tulane and a half-game ahead of UAB. Houston, the Herd's next opponent a week from today, is another half-game back.
So yes, tonight's game is pretty big, and so is the momentum Marshall gained Wednesday night with its 82-70 pasting of UCF. The 20th of February is not a good time to pick up your first "true" road win of the season, but nobody in the Herd camp is complaining now.
The Herd riddled the Knights with season-high 54.2 percent shooting, bullied them inside with a 10-rebound advantage and held them to 43.1 percent from the floor.