The Good, The Bad And The Ugly: UTEP Men’s Basketball Bahamas Edition
On paper a 1-2 tournament record doesn’t look too appealing to most college basketball fans, especially fans as knowledgeable as those in the great city of El Paso (contrary to what USC Coach Andy Enfield thinks).
If you can look beyond the record with your orange-tinted glasses, you will see how the single win with back to back losses in the Bahamas over Thanksgiving weekend could seem better than the .333 winning percentage indicates.
First the GOOD. Who could deny UTEP got off to a nice start with an impressive win over a talented Tennessee squad that went on to roll over their next two opponents (Xavier and Wake Forest) in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. In what was arguably UTEP’s most complete performance of the season, fans got a glimpse of how competitive this team could be going forward and why the Miners could punch their ticket to the Big Dance.
A perfect opportunity to get on a roll and maybe turn some heads in the Bahamas facing a top 25 ranked opponent in the semifinals, right?
Nope, not exactly. UTEP followed up the Tennessee win with an UGLY loss to Iowa the following night. Sure, on any scoreboard an 89-53 loss is as bad as they come and while it might be a cause for concern when you see your team getting dominated in every facet of the game, there is a high probability there will not be a repeat performance for the remainder of the 2013-14 season.
One day fans are making plans for a UTEP return to the NCAA tournament and a day after the Iowa disaster, some were questioning whether this team will even finish over .500 on the season. Now the Miners were facing the number two ranked Kansas Jayhawks in the last game of the tournament, in what most were predicting another blowout loss.
Not a BAD response (aside from some missed free throws) at all by the Miners as they gave Kansas all they could handle in a 67-63 thrilling setback to the talented Jayhawks. Just when Kansas looked to drop the hammer on UTEP and runaway with the game in both halves, the Miners scratched and clawed their way back into the game. It's tough to think about but if a couple shots (or free throws) find the bottom of the net in the second half, we could be talking about another Kansas upset. If there was ever a game to label a moral victory, this one would make the cut.
4-4 isn’t quite what fans were expecting, however, this team has shown that they have enough firepower to be considered a contender in what could be an extremely competitive Conference USA after holding their own against some talented high-major schools.
With a weak non-conference schedule (seven home games and one away) remaining prior to conference play, UTEP should be able to pile up some wins and build some momentum before the competition heats up.