|THE GOOD GUYS:||Texas Tech Red Raiders (5-5, 0-0)|
|THE BAD GUYS:||UTEP Miners (6-2, 0-0)|
|LOCATION:||Don Haskins Center | El Paso, TX|
|DATE:||December 18, 2010|
|TIME:||9:00 p.m. CST|
|GAME CAST:||Fox Sports|
Q&A WITH MINER RUSH
Much thanks to Adrian Mac from Miner Rush for answering a few questions.
Talk a bit about the type of team UTEP is this year under head coach Tim Floyd and last year's coach, Tony Barbee.
I'd say UTEP will be a more disciplined and fundamentally sound basketball team under Tim Floyd. Tony Barbee was an outstanding recruiter, and when he had a decent post presence, I liked his dribble drive weave offense. But, before UTEP had Derrick Caracter, the offense usually consisted of a guard penetrating into a crowd and tossing up a prayer of a layup. There was no balance. Now, we're seeing a team focusing on winning games with good defense and becoming more patient on offense. When the Miners move the ball around on offense and avoid the urge to penetrate (as Barbee's offense relied on), they can find open shots. Miner fans are simply thrilled with the Floyd hire.
So much more after the jump including Adrian's thoughts on Billy Gillispie, which might make some of you incredibly happy.
Reigning Conference USA Player of the Year, Randy Culpepper, continues to simply score at will for UTEP. Talk a bit about his game.
First of all, he's the best dunker in America and seemingly every game he ends up with a breakaway dunk that wows the crowd. Obviously, dunking isn't important in the statistical sense but its something I have to mention because the basketball fan in me wants to tell everyone I can to watch him play. Besides his dunking ability, he's becoming a good all around player. Culpepper has often been criticized for poor shot selection. This season, he's definitely picking his battles a little better and looking to get his teammates involved as well. He tends to be a streaky three point shooter, but it's not out of the ordinary for him to get hot and go for 25+. He usually guards the other teams best guard. He's a good man to man defender. He's a really, really fun player to watch.
Per KenPom, UTEP is struggling a bit offensively, but has been pretty good defensively. Is this part of the transition with Floyd, or is this just UTEP's identity?
Last season, UTEP was the exact opposite. I think it's definitely Floyd's influence on this team. From day one, Floyd has preached intensity on defense and its obvious that's what UTEP is focusing on. Offensively, UTEP has struggled statistically because the Miners lost their best big men. Derrick Caracter left a season early and is now with the Lakers. Arnett Moultrie, a 6'11 forward, transferred to Mississippi State over offers from Texas and Kentucky. UTEP simply isn't getting as many high percentage shots and second chance buckets as they did last season. I honestly think its too early to know what this teams identity is because we don't know how good the offense can be just yet. For now, this team will win with defense but will be in susceptible to close games due to inconsistency on offense.
Other than the starting five, is there any other player that Texas Tech fans should watch for coming off the bench?
I'm going to say John Bohannon. He's a 6'10 true freshman center who's starting to find his groove. Last week he was named the C-USA Freshman of the Week after he had his first career double-double. When he puts on 15 more pounds of muscle, he'll be a really special player. For now, he's up and down but he gives UTEP some depth in the front court. UTEP is very thin up front and as a result, the teams point guard Julyan Stone will often guard another teams forward. Stone is not your typical point guard (he's 6'6) but UTEP needs Bohannon to continue to improve.
Could you answer one more question? With Pat Knight struggling so much, many fans are already thinking that Billie Gillispie is a good option. I'd love to know what you think about the job that he did at UTEP.
I was a huge Billy Gillispie fan when he was at UTEP. In fact, after Tony Barbee left to Auburn, a large percentage of Miner fans wanted athletic director Bob Stull to rehire Gillispie despite his still somewhat fresh legal troubles. Gillispie won over Miner fans with his intense work ethic and the defensive effort his teams were known for. UTEP went 6-24 in his first season (2003-2004) but that team was one that Miner fans still look back at with fond memories because we all knew that he didn't have elite talent yet the team never gave up and played hard every night. The next season, UTEP went 24-8 and the 18 win improvement was the largest in NCAA history. The Miners won the WAC title and lost by three in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to a good Maryland team.
When he left, he handed Doc Sadler an NCAA Tournament team on a silver platter (Sadler turned that team into his new job at Nebraska). I don't know how hard Pat Knight works his team in practice, but I'd imagine some may be shell shocked at first because of the intensity of his notoriously exhausting practice sessions. With GIllispie, you would get a relentless recruiter. He's a Texas guy, he'll recruit Houston hard. Gillispie won't be afraid of JUCO players if they can help him immediately. I guess the best thing I can say about him is that If Tim Floyd wasn't available, he would have been the fan favorite to come back to UTEP. That's incredible considering he left UTEP for greener pastures at A&M. That's how highly Miner fans think of him. I think he'd be a great hire for Tech, and we'd be happy if you kept him out of Conference USA.
WHAT TO EXPECT | I'm at the point now that I'm not expecting much of anything except for a loss. I don't want Texas Tech to lose, but at this point, I just don't have the confidence that this team is capable of playing consistent defense and force teams into bad shots. It's frustrating especially when you see teams like UTEP or New Mexico, who are similar to Texas Tech in location, but consistently put out quality basketball and UTEP has done it with more than a handful of coaches. As a Texas Tech fan, it's tough seeing these teams have success.
KEY MATCHUPS | Although I'm obviously down on the team, I think Texas Tech has a chance to win this game if Roberson can at the very least slow down Culpepper. It's obvious that Culpepper is UTEP's best offensive player and it's not as if UTEP is a great offensive team, but Culpepper is the guy that makes this offense go. If Roberson can't cover him, then find someone that can, whether that be SG David Tairu or PG Jararez Willis.
FOUR FACTORS | A little surprising to see a team that's worse than Texas Tech in the offensive rebounding category and I'm also a little hopeful that UTEP turns the ball over at a higher rate.
Fancy basketball glossary found here.