While the UTEP football team is on a collision course for their first winless season since 1973, the men’s basketball team could finally give Miners fans something to get excited about. Tim Floyd’s team is stacked with more guard depth than he has had in years. In fact, this team is the most athletic UTEP group since his first season back in El Paso. That team consisted of Randy Culpepper, Julyan Stone, Jeremy Williams, Christian Polk, Claude Britten, Gabriel McCulley, and John Bohannon. They finished the season 25-10 and they were six minutes away from defeating Memphis in the CUSA Championship game and advancing to the NCAA Tournament.

The 2017-18 version features five returnees from last season: Omega Harris, Paul Thomas, Matt Willms, Jake Flaggert, and Trey Touchet. However, the team has six newcomers who can also impact a basketball game. Trey Wade, Isiah Osborne, Evan Gilyard, Kobe Magee, and Keith Frazier give the Miners quality depth at the guard positions. Wade is super long and athletic and he has the ability to take over a game offensively. These five guards can also shoot the basketball from the outside much better than past UTEP teams. Frazier is the most recent addition, coming to the Miners as a graduate senior from North Texas. He was originally signed by Larry Brown at SMU and was a former McDonald’s All-American. Frazier is a great weapon as a three-point shooting threat and he will make UTEP more dangerous from the perimeter.

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Tirus Smith is the only low post player that fans will not recognize from last season, but his ability to rebound, score inside, and muscle up in the block will make him an instant fan favorite at the Don Haskins Center. Smith’s development as a freshman is even more important after the sudden departure of Kelvin Jones from the team. The Miners do not have much depth with their big men, so Willms, Thomas, and Smith will need to stay healthy all season.

The big reason why I love this UTEP team is they have the perfect mix of veteran talent and impact newcomers. If Floyd lets them run and use their athleticism, there is no reason why the Miners should not win 20-plus games this season and be a legitimate threat when the C-USA Tournament moves to Frisco in March.