- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 16, 2011

DAYTON, OHIO (AP) - UAB has heard all the talk that it doesn’t belong in the NCAA tournament.

The Blazers not only disagree, they sound as if they intend to prove the experts wrong.

Asked what he thought about the roundball pundits who said UAB hadn’t earned its way into the field, point guard Aaron Johnson bristled.

“I’d rather not comment on ignorance,” he said, almost spitting out the words.

Teammate Jamarr Sanders said regardless of those putting down the Blazers, they’re still a part of the big tournament and were happy to be picked to meet Clemson in a First Four matchup on Tuesday night at the University of Dayton.

“They believe other teams should be in, that’s their opinion,” Sanders said. “But the committee selected us to be in, so that’s all I care about.”

Both 12th-seeded teams badly wanted to be in the field. But neither really wanted to be in under these conditions. Clemson (21-11) played Saturday in the ACC semifinals, losing to North Carolina in overtime. Within 48 hours the Tigers had traveled back home to South Carolina, seen UAB placed in the brackets, got a short night’s sleep, then took a charter flight to Ohio and were going through final preparations before their biggest game.

Hurrying like that is enough to diminish what should be the best moment of the season.

“It’s definitely good and bad at the same time, that quick turnaround,” Tigers forward Jerai Grant said.

Think that’s bad? The winner of Tuesday night’s game has to rush down to Tampa, Fla., where it’ll meet fifth-seeded West Virginia (20-11) in the first game on Thursday’s docket.

That doesn’t upset UAB coach Mike Davis nearly as much as the negativity surrounding his team’s selection.

“I didn’t hear it. I didn’t listen to it,” he said. “This should be the happiest time in these student-athletes’ lives. To get in the big dance is a special event. That’s their dream _ that one shining moment.”

With little sleep, both the Tigers and the Blazers (22-8) are living off Adrenalin, anyway. They figure they’ll rest up after that dream ends.

“We had the team at the house, so we got them together quickly and just told them to be ready for anything,” said Clemson coach Brad Brownell. “We didn’t know if we were leaving late last night, didn’t know if we were leaving first thing in the morning.”

The Tigers caught a 9 a.m. flight on Monday, arrived in Dayton at 10, checked into their hotel and then had a walkthrough at Wright State University in suburban Fairborn. Brownell knew his way around. He was the coach at Wright State for four years before moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference school a year ago.

Not surprisingly, the No. 1 question for Brownell was his team’s energy, particularly against a dynamo like UAB’s Johnson, a 5-foot-8 dervish who led the nation in assists at 7.7 per game.

Aaron Johnson is probably the fastest guy I’ve seen with the ball all year,” Brownell said. “So energy will be critical.”

Johnson expended some energy right after he heard UAB’s name announced.

“I danced the whole time I was in my room when I was watching (ESPN analyst) Jay Bilas and all the rest of them talk down to us,” he said. “Their facial expressions, they seemed like they wanted to cry. Like one of the coaches in the NBA said, there ain’t no crying in basketball. So it definitely didn’t spoil my celebration at all.”

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