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Thinking Outside The Box (And 1): Advice For Coach Floyd

Photo courtesy of Steve Kaplowitz.

20-plus wins?

Ask me after UAB.

RPI ranking?

Next question.

CUSA  top  four finish?

If the stars align similar to last night’s in Murfreesboro, then just maybe.

All UTEP fans have been talking about since the dismissals of Justin Crosgile, McKenzie Moore and Jalen Ragland from the basketball team/school is the serious lack of depth on the roster.

And we can’t forget Issac Hamil….Nevermind, no need beating a dead horse.

So after watching UTEP handled Middle Tennessee State last night in the Miners first road win of the conference season, I thought of an unorthodox strategy for the UTEP coaching staff.

Stay with me.

Since the start of conference play the trio of John Bohannon, CJ Cooper and Julian Washburn have been averaging over 35 minutes per game.  Last night they all played at least 38 minutes with Cooper playing the entire game.  If not for foul trouble, Vince Hunter and Cedrick Lang would easily be averaging over 30 minutes per contest.

At this rate most of UTEP’s starting five will be running on fumes once the CUSA tourney rolls around in March. I am sure the coaching staff is aware and will make adjustments accordingly, but so far there has been some reluctance to allow the inexperienced reserves more playing time early on during conference play. There are some fans that will argue they are young and recover quickly, but this isn’t high school anymore.  They will wear down as the season goes along and injuries are always concern playing so many minutes.

So I am proposing that Coach Tim Floyd implement a type of “pitch” count for his starting five then just maybe they will have enough energy when the CUSA tournament comes to town.

Now before you throw out “tanking” that is not at all what I am implying, especially after the last two conference wins.

By all means if UTEP is leading or within striking distance most of the game, Floyd just follows his normal plan and goes for the win similar to last night’s big road win over MTSU and last Saturday’s win over Marshall.

However, if UTEP’s starting five are having an off-night (not necessarily foul trouble) or the Miners are losing by more than 15 points in either half pull back the minutes and give some extended time to the reserves.  It might result in a loss, but the starters get to conserve some energy and the likes of Matt Willms, Hooper Vint, Victor Mbachu, Tevin Caldwell, Jake Flaggert and even the newly added Jones brothers garner some valuable minutes to help with the depth issue.

Before fans start throwing pick axes, let me ask a question.

Would you rather have a run down UTEP team scratch and claw to a 20-win season (assuming the ball bounces the Miners way most nights) with nine conference wins and get bounced in the quarterfinals? Or would you prefer betting on a somewhat rested Miner squad sitting at 16-18 wins in the middle of the pack of CUSA running the table in a watered-down conference?

Remember there is no dominant team (a la Memphis) in the conference and while a few CUSA teams have pulled off some quality wins during non-conference play this is a 1-bid conference no matter how you slice it.  As we saw last night, this starting five is one of the best in the conference and when all five are making major contributions they can beat any team in the conference.

This season will have plenty of ups and downs , but most are realistic that a postseason appearance is most likely not in the cards this year barring a surprising run in the CUSA tournament.

Coach Floyd is going to ride his starters as far as he can, but why not ease off the gas some during conference play to have his team playing on a full tank when the games have a whole lot more meaning.

Stranger things have and will happen as March Madness inches closer.

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