Can UTEP Keep the Run Alive? Floyd On Miners Big Wins, NMSU
To hear Tim Floyd at UTEP's tip-off luncheon was to hear a coach who would have been happy to win a game this season, yet the Miners have already won six.
The pertinent question would then be: How many games have they played? That would also be six.
So, they're undefeated and off to their first 6-0 record in 15 years. Okay.
Answering the next logical question gets a little harder, though.
Is Floyd sandbagging?
No. The season is long, the roster is new and still missing pieces.
But, yes, Tim Floyd knows what kind of team he has. It could be a good team because UTEP has arguably its best backcourt since Julyan Stone and Randy Culpepper.
Oregon transfer Dominic Artis, second-year starter Earvin Morris and junior college transfer Lee Moore are adapting to the Miners' system despite some notable bumps in the road. What they're showing is that they won't back down.
Not many inexperienced teams come back from 17-point halftime deficits like UTEP did against Colorado State in a thrilling 99-90 double-overtime win. The victory over an old WAC foe in the finals of the Corpus Christi Coastal Classic earned the Miners' their first tournament championship outside of El Paso since 1984.
Morris won tournament MVP honors while Moore and Hooper Vint were named to the all-tournament team. It was Morris' big-time three-pointer that tied the game to send it to overtime and his willingness to take a charge that gave CSU's top-scorer Gian Clavell his fifth foul in the second overtime.
Get a good look at those shiny numbers? Done gawking? Good. Tim Floyd would now like everyone to quiet down a little.
"It is still early in the year so the national stuff really doesn't mean much," said Floyd. "We know that we have some areas to improve upon. We got a couple of wins (in Corpus Christi), that's what was great about it.
"We, as a group, are playing well, and it starts with backcourt play. I don't want to single any of 'em out, but they're all doing a little better job."
And there you have it. A little better job. Now, SSSHHHH!
What Floyd has is a team -- and particularly guards -- with a natural aggression and swagger that he'd like to keep in check. The sandbagging comes from his desire to keep this group from getting "too chesty" -- an expression now in its third generation of use.
Henry Iba once used it to describe putting Don Haskins in his place as a player at Oklahoma A&M. Floyd absorbed a great deal from his surrogate father, UTEP's late great Bear, including that phrase, which he is now using to put his own team in its place.
Floyd openly talked about how bad his Miners would have it at practice after playing a selfish second half against Florida A&M. He's benched players, suspended others, all to reign in a group that has shown some ego.
It should be said, though, that as much as the Miners' marauding tendencies might drive their head coach a bit nuts this season, it's a welcome change from 2014-15. When it came down to crunchtime and a need for someone to make a big play, last season's team was a coin toss. When they won it, they deferred to Vince Hunter.
This season, it's becoming clear that there will be no heads or tails, just drawn swords and full speed ahead.
If Floyd can buckle its collective swash, UTEP could be in a better place come March.