For the first time in nearly two years, the Battle of I-10 will tip-off Saturday in an early season battle between the Miners (1-0) and Aggies (1-0).

Listen to the 220th meeting of the two schools on 600 ESPN El Paso, with Steve Kaplowitz and Hooper Vint calling the action at 7 p.m. MinerTalk presented by the Oscar Arrieta Agency will follow the basketball broadcast. Catch up on the first basketball edition of MinerTalk before tip-off. 

Here are final storylines before Saturday's tip-off.

Projected starters for UTEP 

  • PG Jamal Bieniemy
  • SG Souley Boum 
  • SG Keonte Kennedy
  • PF Tydus Verhoeven
  • PF Bonke Maring 

Jans and the tie to the UTEP head coaching job

Aggies head coach Chris Jans, who is one of the most successful coaches in the mid major ranks in terms of winning, boasts a 96-25 overall record in his fifth year at the program. He is also 5-1 against UTEP.

Upon the sudden departure of Rodney Terry, the Miners basketball program was searching for their next head coach back in March. Jans' name popped up as one of the finalists for the job before Joe Golding was named the 20th coach in school history. The fact that Jans interviewed for the opening, and ultimately did not get the job, adds some extra flavor to this game.

When it was announced that Golding took the job at UTEP, NM State Athletic Director Mario Moccia tweeted out this selfie of him and Jans. The Aggies retained their head coach and the Miners went a different direction. Maybe this game is a little more personal for Jans.

NMSU dominates the series at home

NM State leads UTEP in the all-time series, 115-104. This is the first time the two squads meet since 2019, when NMSU beat UTEP at the Pan American Center 59-56.The two squads could not get a game scheduled last season during the pandemic shortened season.

The Aggies have won nine straight games against the Miners. UTEP's last win in Las Cruces came 11 years ago under Tim Floyd, when the Miners won 74-72 in a dog fight.

This is Golding's first time playing NM State in his career. It will take a lot for his Miner squad to upset the Aggies, whom have won 10 of the last 11 against UTEP.

Souley Boum is back for the Miners

Here's a plus for the Miners. All Conference guard Souley Boum is back from a finger injury and he returned to the mix at practice this week. Boum missed the season opener against Western New Mexico in order to rehab his injury.

The Oakland native is coming off a C-USA Third Team selection in 2020-21 after averaging 18.8 points per game, which was third-best in the conference. He had a 81.2% free throw percentage and he led the team in steals with 34 last year.

Boum is an impact player for the Miners. Alongside guard Jamal Bieniemy, the two make for a dynamic combo for the squad.

Matchup storyline: Teddy Allen vs. Jamal Bieniemy

Among the heap of newcomers NM State brought in for this year stands redshirt junior Teddy Allen from Nebraska. He was the Huskers' leading scorer in 2020-21 last year, averaging 16.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.3 steals. He was seventh in the Big Ten for 3-point field goals per game (2.0). In his debut for the Aggies, Allen put up 14 points en route to the team's 62-51 win against UC Irvine on Tuesday.

Bieniemy, a transfer from Oklahoma, is looking to have a stellar year for the Miners in his second season with the squad. He has played at the highest levels in the Big 12 before. Bieniemy also led the squad with 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting against Western New Mexico in the season debut on Tuesday.

One can look at the frontcourt battle between UTEP forwards Tydus Verhoeven and Bonke Maring against NM State bigs Johnny McCants and Donnie Tillman as a key matchup. However, the matchup of Power 5 transfer guards in Allen and Bieniemy going at it should be really fun to watch.

C-USA realignment preview 

As announced earlier this week, the Aggies will be joining Conference USA in 2023, as part of the league's restructuring following the departure of nine programs to the AAC and Sun Belt. For the first time since the early 60s, we will get to see UTEP and NM State play in the same league.

This game sparks the first of many battles that will be showcased in conference play. NM State is a power in the WAC for men's basketball. There's no doubt they will contend for titles in C-USA too. Can you imagine a matchup between the schools in the C-USA Tournament? Better yet, imagine a C-USA title game between the schools?

It can definitely happen in the future.


 

Check out the full photo gallery by Ruben Ramirez from UTEP's win against Western New Mexico.

UTEP basketball beats WNMU 85-57 in Season Opener

Ruben Ramirez | UTEP Athletics