"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

UTEP Preview

UTEP Miners
December 4, fiserv.forum

Coach: Rodney Terry (First season at UTEP, 126-108 overall)
3-Year RPI Average: 243.3
3-Year kenpom Average: 218.3
2018-19 T-Rank Projection: 280
Projected Starters: PG Evan Gilyard (5'10" So), SG Kobe Magee (6'1" So), SF Jordan Lathon (6'4" Fr), PF Paul Thomas (6'8" Sr), C Teddy Ochieng (6'8" Fr)

The deeper the Miners get into Rodney Terry's first year, the more disappointing they look on the schedule. The top-two scorers & top rebounder graduated. Then a pair of freshmen & a grad student transferred out. When four-star freshman Lathon committed, it looked like things were turning around, but the same day leading returning scorer Isiah Osborne transferred as well. What's left is a pair of supplementary scorers in Gilyard & Thomas surrounded by mostly freshmen. Terry has a number of quality transfers on the roster, to the point that the scout team might beat the first team, but they won't be eligible until next season.

Under Tim Floyd, the Miners were a solid buy game, posting winning records in 5/7 seasons. Last season they started 0-5 under Floyd, who departed leaving interim coach Phil Johnson to guide UTEP to their lowest kenpom ranking since 2003 at #240. With all the turnover that trend will likely continue.

Terry is a good coach; he made a NCAA Tournament at Fresno State & posted improved season ratings on Pomeroy & T-Rank each of the past 3 years with both rankings having the Bulldogs in the top-80 last year. With a young, inexperienced roster, I expect Terry will follow the same formula that he started with at Fresno. Slow the game down, defend like hell, & hope you can make enough threes to stay competitive. In early interviews, he said he wanted his teams to play tough defense & up-tempo offense, but it's hard to see that happening this year with such a thin roster.

In 2-3 years, UTEP will likely be a good buy game & Terry could very well have them competing at the top of C-USA. For now, this is a program in transition that will just be a comfortable speed bump ahead of the Wisconsin game.

Marquette Connection: The two schools have only played once & that was a Marquette victory in 1963, however these two teams do have a connection. In 2013-14 and 2014-15, Marquette's Ed Morrow and UTEP's Evan Gilyard were teammates on the Chicago Simeon basketball team. They went 44-10 in those two seasons, including a 27-3 season in 2014-15 when Simeon was the #2 ranked team in the state of Illinois. For Gilyard, this trip to Milwaukee will not only be close to home, it will be a reunion with former teammate Morrow.

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