MinerTalk: UTEP Looks Toward Bonus Play Amid 5 Game Losing Streak
It's been a rocky two-month stretch for the Miners men's basketball team (13-14, 4-10 C-USA), who will enter Conference USA Bonus play on a five-game losing streak.
UTEP will have a week to prepare for their first game in the C-USA pod system, when they host Rice at home on Saturday, Feb. 22.
UTEP Bonus Play Schedule
Date & Opponent/Stream Time Location
Sat., Feb. 22 Rice 5:00 p.m. Don Haskins Center
Sun. March 1 Southern Miss 2:00 p.m. Don Haskins Center
Wed., March 4 at Middle Tennessee 5:30 p.m. MT Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Sat., March 7 at Rice 4:00 p.m. MT Houston, Texas
UTEP finds themselves in the bottom group of the C-USA RPI pod system, where they will face off against four teams they beat earlier this year. They defeated Southern Miss (76-64) on Jan. 9 at home, won the first road game of the season at Rice (72-64) on Jan. 23 and squeezed past Middle Tennessee (67-66) on Jan. 30.
But the Miners haven't played particularly well since beating the Blue Raiders at the end of January.
At the same time, Rice and Southern Miss have picked up some notable wins recently. The Owls pushed past an above-average Charlotte team (70-54), while the Golden Eagles beat a Florida International team (75-67) that gave UTEP fits.
Southern Miss (5-9) finished as the top seed (11th overall) in the third pod, while Rice (5-9) is the 12th seed, UTEP (4-10) at 13th and MT is the 14th seed.
RPI things to know
Conference USA men’s basketball will enter the second phase of its conference slate with the Bonus Play schedule. It is the conference's second year utilizing the innovative format. The Athletics Directors and Board of Directors originally passed the concept in January 2018. Head coaches and Athletics Directors finalized the details during the league’s annual spring meetings in May 2018.
Teams will be placed in one of three groups based on conference standings through the first 14 games of league action and will be guaranteed conference tournament seeding within that group. The teams will be divided into two groups of five (1-5 and 6-10) and a group of four (11-14). During the final three weeks, teams will play within their respective grouping for the last four games of conference play. Home and away games within the groups are determined by a preset formula, per C-USA.
As head coach Rodney Terry explained previously during press conferences, Conference USA Bonus Play might be in its final season of existence, despite being in the second year of the system. It was thought of initially as a way to benefit the teams' RPI in order to help the league be more than just a one-bid league, as it's always criticized to be.
There was no luck at getting more than one team last year and in a conference that has tons of parity this year, it's looking another one-bid team season. Good-bye pod system—probably!
Recruitment and practice week
Aside to some rest and necessities to fix during practice, coach Terry has made it known that recruiting is a must for the staff during the long week. The Miners are coming off a 71-61 loss against Marshall, where they shot an abysmal 35 percent from the floor.
Following the game, Terry told the broadcast that this week the staff would be "recruiting and addressing areas like shooting and the guard play."
Social media saw a fast attempt at addressing those needs.
Hess transferred to Salt Lake CC after spending his freshman season with California Baptist. He's a 6-foot-5 shooting guard that is averaging 8.4 points per game on a 47.9 percent clip from 3-point range. The Thousand Oaks, CA. native could join UTEP right away next year as a JUCO transfer, along with three years of eligibility.
Keep an eye out for more offers and commits this week.
Make or break: Reaching Frisco is a necessity for this team
Can UTEP really go back-to-back years with missing the conference tournament? The Miners stand as the No. 13 team in the league during a disappointing month of February. Although they have beaten each of these next four opponents, UTEP continues to see regression and a lack of urgency from the squad on the court.
In order for this program to show true improvement from last year's underwhelming eight-win season, they must get to Frisco. Bottom line. And making the C-USA Tournament will not be easy and by no means should be an accomplishment.
At 4-10, let's see how this Miner team can try to salvage the rest of this roller-coaster season.