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Moment Of Truth For Coach Tim Floyd And UTEP MBB…4 Wins In 4 Days?

Steve Kaplowitz

Every college coach in America, including UTEP head coach Tim Floyd, are saying they are only thinking about the next game and not looking ahead during conference championship week with Selection Sunday right around the corner.

Rightfully so, but the beauty of being a blogger is looking at the CUSA tournament bracket and predicting which team will be cutting down the nets this upcoming Saturday.

With a four-way tie for first place in CUSA it would be easy to pick anyone of the top four seeds (LaTech, Tulsa, Middle Tennessee and Southern Miss) to win the conference tournament because frankly no one would be surprised if anyone of those teams won the automatic bid.

Some might ask why make these predictions with first round action underway?

A valid question, but does anyone really think a double-digit seed in this conference can win five games in five days?

That’s what I thought.

Honestly, I would be shocked if any seed outside the top five (aside from maybe UAB) even sniffs the conference tournament finals.

So that brings us to the 5th-seeded home team, YOUR UTEP Miners.

A lot has been made about UTEP not garnering a top four seed and while it would have helped tremendously there is no use crying over spilled milk anymore.

Disappointing?

Sure, however, if you consider what the state of this team after a conference opening loss to Charlotte fans could have never predicted UTEP would even be in the spot they find themselves in heading into the second round of the CUSA tournament.

Which brings us to the ultimate question, how far will UTEP advance?

Unfortunately, the Miners will most likely face three of the top four seeds along the way to a conference tournament championship, but like they say “if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best”.

Not to discount UTEP’s second round opponent and for the purposes of this blog not to turn into a novel we will just skip ahead to the quarterfinal matchup with Southern Mississippi.  The undersized Golden Eagles gave the Miners fits in Hattiesburg, but playing with the revenge factor and home court advantage UTEP should be able to squeak by and advance to the Semifinals.

Next UTEP would face the winner of UAB/Charlotte or Louisiana Tech and while most Miner fans will be secretly hoping for an upset by one of the higher seeded teams, not sure either team other can beat the Bulldogs right now.  UAB would have the best shot in my opinion, but I think we are in for another rematch to set up a dynamite semifinal between UTEP and Louisiana Tech.

UTEP has the advantage of handling the Bulldogs 89-79 back in late January at the DON; however, Louisiana Tech will have revenge on their minds as they have been playing lights out on their way to that number one seed.

No school scares me more than Louisiana Tech right now, sorry Tulsa fans.

In what will be the toughest game all season for UTEP, Coach Floyd will find a way to win this semifinal and get the Miners to within one game of the ultimate goal.  Don’t forget Julian Washburn will have plenty of motivation after being snubbed by Louisiana Tech’s Speedy Smith for the CUSA defensive play of the year award.

What about the other side of the bracket, you say?

Barring an upset which I don’t see happening in the second round or quarterfinals, Tulsa and Middle Tennessee will be in the semifinals in what will be an excellent matchup for the locals to enjoy.

Tulsa is the hottest team in the conference and Middle Tennessee isn’t too far behind winning 12 of their last 14 games (with losses to Tulsa and Louisiana Tech during that span).

The Golden Hurricane seem to be on a mission and the Blue Raiders could derail Danny Manning’s squad, but in the end Tulsa will be the team standing in UTEP’s way.

The Miners will be running on empty after taking down the number one seed in the semifinals and if they lose in the conference tournament finals that would be a perfect excuse.

Fortunately for UTEP, they will be playing in front of a sold-out (Yes, I said it)….a SOLDOUT Don Haskins Center for all the marbles.  It won’t be a pretty display of college basketball by either team; actually it will be similar to the first matchup with Tulsa back in late February.  This time, the 12,000+ fans will be the difference and give Coach Floyd his first NCAA tournament appearance as UTEP’s head man.

Buckle your seat belts and enjoy the ride El Paso.

It’s going to be All Good.

 

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