Breaking Down the UTEP Men’s Basketball Schedule
This morning, UTEP released its men's basketball schedule for the 2020-21 season. There are only 22 games listed on the schedule, so fans should expect more revisions over the next week as non-conference games get added to the mix.
There are plenty of interesting takeaways from the Miners non-conference schedule, which begins next Wednesday. The most obvious is that UTEP will play in Tucson against Arizona on Sunday, November 29th and at Saint Mary's nine days later. These two games will be great tests for head coach Rodney Terry and his men's basketball program. The Wildcats were picked 5th out of 12 teams in the Pac-12 preseason poll, while the Gaels were voted to finish 3rd behind Gonzaga and BYU in the West Coast Conference.
The next takeaway is the omission of both UNM and NMSU from the schedule. UTEP was originally scheduled to play at the Pan Am Center on December 2nd and at the Pit on December 12th. However, once New Mexico governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced last week that both schools would not be allowed to practice or play in the state of New Mexico, the two programs were left scrambling to work out an alternative hosting site in either Arizona or Nevada. UTEP did not want to remove these rivalry games from their schedule, but they also could not continue to hold dates as they approached the start of the season. As of now, the Lobos and Aggies are still working out those arrangements and their games against the Miners will most likely be moved to the 2021-22 season.
The WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitation was canceled yesterday, because the three schools scheduled to play (Akron, South Dakota St, and North Carolina Central) all opted not to make the trip because of their concern for traveling to El Paso. There was even a backup plan involving NMSU and UNM to fill two of the three vacancies, but both programs could no longer make the easy drive from Albuquerque and Las Cruces to El Paso now that they need to relocate out of the state.
The NCAA has issued a blanket waiver for the 2020-21 season, allowing all basketball programs an additional two games in multi-team events (MTE) if they do not exceed the maximum of 27 games. Any two games can be considered a MTE according to the relaxed NCAA scheduling rules due to COVID-19. Since the WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational was canceled, it is possible that UTEP could still schedule as many as five more non-conference games prior to the start of C-USA play on January 1st. The Miners are currently scheduled to play at Saint Mary's on December 8th, but they are likely to add more December games to get closer to the 27 that they can play. There is the possibility that they will play another big road game against a Top 25 program, but nothing has been finalized.