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UTEP: Side Stories

When the Miners and the Wildcats take the court Thursday night there will be many storylines to follow. These two teams have a long history with one another. Many Wildcat fans remember the heartbreaking loss the Wildcats had against the Miners in 1987 in the NCAA tournament. The Miners, who were led by a young Tim Hardaway, had a late comeback to force the game into overtime, which they eventually won 98-91.

The most intriguing storyline has to do with a Tim; not Hardaway, but instead Miners coach Tim Floyd. It seems so long ago but Floyd had been offered to be the head coach of the Wildcats, then things really unraveled for Floyd after that.

There is no way Floyd’s mind hasn’t been consumed by “what if’s” this week. If there is one thing we know about Floyd, it’s that he can recruit with the best of them. So when he looks at this stacked Arizona roster it has to make him wonder “what if”.

I am not saying that he is in a bad situation today, or even that UTEP is a bad program because I am not. What is a no brainer is that the head coaching job for basketball at Arizona is better than the head-coaching job at UTEP.

So now, Tim Floyd will have to prove himself to the college basketball world all over again. Coming from Floyd’s standpoint this is by far the biggest regular season game. Arizona is the highest ranked team on UTEP’s schedule, and no other team in Conference USA comes close to an Arizona other than Memphis. Hence, a victory tonight gets your team introduced to the rest of the college basketball world. Also, since it isn’t on a weekend and the Thursday night NFL game isn’t exactly the ’85 Bears versus the ’72 Dolphins there is room for some national coverage of this game.

It is also good for Arizona that the game is early in the season. Floyd is a creative coach, especially on defense. He has drawn up some really creative and effective defenses, particularly zone defenses. He will do a box-and-one or a triangle-and-two or anything else to stop players from scoring. Luckily for the Cats there isn’t a lot of game tape on this young Wildcat team so that definitely gives Floyd little to work with outside of knowing he has to stop Solomon Hill on the wing.

UTEP has some ballers on their roster as well. UTEP will be a good opponent for the Wildcats. The two teams have not met in a while but the players are very familiar with one another.

In fact, Arizona freshman Grant Jerrett is extremely familiar with UTEP point guard Cecil Cooper. Cooper and Jerrett played together at LaVerne Lutheran High School in LaVerne, Calif. Cooper and Jerrett likely won’t see much of each other tonight, except in some pick and roll situations. Make no mistake though as both will want to play well with people from LaVerne watching.

This game will be much anticipated for both teams and coaches. For the UTEP players it will be a huge test for them and their season. As for the Wildcats it is the first legit opponent from a decent conference, so they can really start to play for real against and build their overall profile as a NCAA tournament team.

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