C-USA Basketball Preview: UTEP Miners

C-USA Basketball Preview: UTEP Miners
October 10, 2013, 10:15 am
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IRVING, Texas -- Tim Floyd now enters his third season as the head coach of the University of Texas El Paso Miners. However, he’s been a head coach at the college and NBA levels for 20 years. Floyd knows the game having played his college ball at Southern Mississippi and Louisiana Tech.

Once his playing days were over, he began his coaching career at Louisiana Tech and eventually transitioned to working as an assistant under late-great legendary coach Don Haskins. The rest is history. It’s safe to say that Floyd’s career has been one of longevity and great success.

The head coach is looking for similar success with this season’s team. In the three seasons that Floyd has been at the helm, his teams have finished with overall records of 25-10 (2010), 15-17 (2011), and 18-14 (2012). The Miners advanced in the 2010-11 season to the NIT. However, they fell to New Mexico, 69-57, in the first round.

But as we preview the 2013 Miners, let’s be mindful of their 2012 conference record. UTEP finished 10-6; good enough for third place behind Memphis, no longer in Conference USA, and Southern Miss.

FLOYD HAS CLEAR VISION

Rosters can occasionally be deceiving, especially since the writer of this story inflated his height and weight as an amateur. However, the UTEP roster reflects little deception. Every player on the roster, except one, is listed at six feet or taller. It appears as though the Miners have height, talent, and experience. But, Floyd knows the makeup of his team better than anyone.

“If we get guard play, we can be competitive and that’s our biggest question,” said Floyd. “We (lost) two starting guards a year ago. We replaced them with three signees who aren’t at our place right now. None of the three guys we signed are with us. So, we’re going with guys that either backed up or filled in the backcourt. If college basketball is truly about backcourts, then we’ve got questions.”

Guards Konner Tucker, who played in 25 games last season and was the team’s third leading scorer, along with Jacques Streeter, who was second in minutes played, have graduated. But seemingly the roster indicates talent and depth. Ten out of the 15 players are listed as either guard or guard-forward combinations. Those are favorable combinations by any standards.

“We like a lot of our players,” said Floyd. “We’ve got a nice mix of upper classmen and freshmen. So, we’ll see how these young freshmen and guys that filled in the backcourt (last year) can do this year.”

MORE ADJUSTMENTS   

Conference USA is already quite interesting with the new football partners now included on the schedule. Basketball certainly brings its share of interest as well with the bevy of traditional powers that have outstanding pedigrees combined with the new kids on the block that boast proven coaches.

Old Dominion, Florida Atlantic, Middle Tennessee, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, Charlotte, and UTSA are the new teams in the conference. Some of the teams need no introduction. While some might, some of the coaches of those teams are familiar faces with familiar names.

Names such as Mike Jarvis (FAU), Kermit Davis (MTSU), Jeff Jones (ODU), Anthony Evans (FIU), Alan Major (Charlotte), and former NBA first-round pick and UTSA head coach, Brooks Thompson are some of the new names in the conference. Couple that with the eight existing programs and Floyd doesn’t pretend to know where his Miners will rank.

“Without knowing much about these other teams that are in this league, I would say somewhere middle of the pack,” Floyd predicted. “That would be my guess, somewhere in that group because of the backcourt.”

However, while questions abound regarding the backcourt, Floyd is leaving the door open for the player or players to step through and take on the leadership role.

“We’ve got several juniors that have played (like) Cedric Lang,” said Floyd. “We’ve got John Bohannon, a senior. Julian Washburn, from a talent standpoint, is one of the more talented guys. McKenzie Moore would probably be a guy we’d have been counting on in that area. But, he hasn’t been able to practice because he’s been hurt. His wrist has been aggravated. He had surgery this summer.

“So, I don’t really know. Our point guard, C.J. Cooper, is not the most vocal guy in town. In fact, I think he’s said like four sentences to me in three years.” Floyd added that he is a really good player.

One can only gather that Cooper is the quiet type who leads by example. However, there’s a good chance that UTEP and Floyd will make some noise come basketball season.