Is There’s Hope? UTEP Tips Off C-USA Tournament Against Marshall
The 2019-20 UTEP basketball season is nearing the end of its roller-coaster journey of a season as the team prepares to start Conference USA Tournament play. After a four-game win streak—including wins against all the bottom teams in the conference—UTEP (17-14, 8-10 C-USA; 11th seed) will put their win streak on the line against a tough Marshall (16-15, 10-8; 6th seed) squad on Wednesday night for the first round of the C-USA Tournament in Frisco, Texas.
Tipoff is set for 8 PM with Jon Teicher and Steve Yellen calling the action on 600 ESPN El Paso. MinerTalk with me and Salvador Montes will follow the broadcast, brought to you by Palo Verde Homes.
Here are three final questions before tipoff:
Which Bryson Williams will UTEP get?
Earlier this week, redshirt junior Bryson Williams was named to the first team All-Conference, which is no surprise to anyone considering his dominant production all season long. But in these four wins, Williams’ performance has definitely tailed off.
He is averaging 10.7 points during this stretch—almost seven points fewer than his season average of points per game (17.6 ppg)—and has been shooting less efficiently than normal (15-of-40 FG). It could be fatigue. It could be the fact that opposing teams continue to sell out on double-teaming Williams. Whatever the case may be, Williams just hasn’t been the same.
The Miners will desperately need their best player in Williams to step up during the tournament. They've managed to squeeze past the bottom-feeders of the conference with subpar performances by Williams, but that same lower-level of production cannot happen in the tournament.
Lastly, even though Bryson Williams has not been as productive through the final stretch, he is still one of the most talented players in the league and will be a threat even when he’s a non-factor during these conference tournament games because of his size, rebounding abilities and defensive habits.
Marshall rolled over UTEP before—will it happen again?
The last time the Miners lost coincidentally came against the Thundering Herd. Marshall dominated in all aspects against the Miners in a late February home game where UTEP fell, 71-61. Will this be another similar outcome?
The Thundering Herd possesses a pair of All-Conference selection players in Taevion Kinsey and Jarrod West. Kinsey (first team) averages 16.1 points per game and totaled 131 assists this year, while West (third team) ranks second at 14.4 points per contest and has 126 assists.
As a team, Marshall averages 75.6 points per game (fourth in C-USA) and ranks 11th in scoring defense (72.9). They are a tough team both off the glass and defensively—ranking second in blocked shots per game (5.9) and steals per game (8.2), and ranking third in rebounds per game (38.6).
The key to this game for UTEP will be their defense. If the Miners can hold up defensively, as they’ve done against lesser-quality opponents, they will stand a chance against the Thundering Herd in this one. But if they allow Marshall to score all over them, it will be a rough outing for UTEP and could be a short-lived trip to Frisco.
Can Daryl Edwards keep going?
What a fabulous stretch for graduate transfer Daryl Edwards through these past four wins. Edwards has stepped up not only as UTEP’s best scorer, but also their top leader in the locker room. He’s played with a sense of urgency, as head coach Rodney Terry describes it.
Edwards is averaging 26.8 points per game during this stretch of four games and scored over 20 points in every win for the Miners. He averaged 21.0 points in his last seven games while shooting 44.8 percent (26-58) from beyond the arc. The stretch he’s having has been remarkable for the team.
If he keeps this up and gets some support from the backcourt from the likes of Jordan Lathon (3.0 assists per game), Souley Boum (12.9 ppg) and some strong bench minutes from Kaden Archie and Deon Stroud, UTEP stands a chance to beat Marshall.
If they go back to their inconsistent ways, they could be a one-and-done team in the conference tournament.
The winner between UTEP-Marshall faces LA Tech tomorrow at 8:00 PM MT.