Quick Takeaways from UTEP Men’s Basketball 2019-20 Schedule
Alas, the 2019-20 schedule has finally been released by the UTEP men's basketball program, with a plethora of key games, including home games against New Mexico, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and New Mexico State, along with a huge road game against Houston.
"A lot of home games at the start of the year, hopefully gain some momentum in terms of getting our fans in to see our team early on and give us support," Terry said.
If you look at our schedule, we have four league champions from a year ago on our schedule," he continued. "You look at New Mexico State, won the WAC. UC Irvine won the Big West. Houston won the American [Athletic Conference] and was one of the top teams in the country. Washington won the Pac-12. All teams that will be good again this year."
Diamond Head Classic highlights non-conference road schedule
UTEP will get an exciting treat when they travel to Hawaii starting on Dec. 22 for the Diamond Head Classic. The competitive field for the invitational features a mix of mid-major programs and Power-5 schools. Along with the Miners, the invitational will showcase Ball State (Mid-American), Boise State (Mountain West), Georgia Tech (ACC), tournament host school Hawai’i (Big West), Houston (AAC), Portland (WCC) and Washington (Pac-12).
UTEP will face off against Washington in the opening round, who have highly-touted recruits Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels. Then, the Miners will square off against Ball State or Hawaii, depending on the winner/loser from the opening round.
Houston and Washington are regarded as some of the best defensive programs in the country and both teams are early favorites to contend for the invitational championship.
"You can't put a price tag on playing on national television with that exposure," Terry said. "Playing on national TV with the quality field that's in it...you're going to play against some of the top programs in the country. Very good field that is going to get us ready for conference play."
Exhibition games, regional rivalries reflect strong southwest connection
Last year, the Miners surprised fans with the announcement that they would play Grand Canyon and Texas Tech in exhibition games on the road. It's not reflected in the schedule but UTEP will host the same two programs in an exhibition setting at the Don Haskins Center before the season.
As Texas Tech comes off a breakthrough season that featured a National Championship run, and as Grand Canyon continues to get more skilled in the mid-major scene, the connection with UTEP will only help the Miners in their preparation for the season.
Texas Tech and Grand Canyon are programs that UTEP should play each season because of their proximity to El Paso and to establish competitive southwest matchups.
Along with the two preseason games, the Miners will still hold true to their regional rivalry games against NMSU and New Mexico, which are both going to be huge series.
The home-and-home against NMSU will intensify this year with the Battle of I-10. Small forward Trevelin Queen will be one of the key leaders for the Aggies this season and if Chris Jans gets his older Aggie bunch to get rolling early on, they could quest to an easy NCAA Tournament berth. But Jans doesn't simply want to get to the Tournament; he wants to win games with NMSU in March.
This year will be particularly interesting for the New Mexico Lobos, who will play at the Don Haskins Center on Nov. 19. New Mexico has a load of top-level recruits and transfers who are eligible this year, so expectations on head coach Paul Weir will be high this season. They have Zane Martin, a well regarded 6-foot-4 guard, Ohio State transfer JaQuan Lyle and Texas A&M transfer JJ Caldwell. You also cannot forget about forward Vance Jackson, who might be one of their best prospects to date.
WestStar Don Haskins Invitational fields competitive mid-majors
There was a lot of hate when the teams were announced for the WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational, which is set for Dec. 16-17.
Joining the host team in UTEP will be UC Irvine, Kent State and North Carolina A&T.
UC Irvine went to the NCAA Tournament last season and upset No. 4 seed and Big 12 Champions Kansas State in the opening round. Kent State wrapped up the 2018-19 season with a 22-11 record and made it to a postseason tournament for the 17th time in 21 years. North Carolina A&T concluded last year with a 13-3 conference record and comes to the Don Haskins Invitational for the first time in their program history.
Houston, C-USA schedule and more
When the Miners travel to play Houston on Dec. 19, there is a chance that the Cougars could be rising in the top-25. Yes, they're that good. If Houston can somehow get Kansas transfer Quentin Grimes a waiver to play right off the bat, the Cougars can be put in a great position for success.
"We'll be battle-tested in terms of toughness," Terry said. "Being strong with the ball because they play a physical style of basketball."
As far as the Conference USA schedule, Terry previously said in a press conference that the C-USA pod system, which grouped the 14 teams in three categories and pinned them against each other for the final games in an attempt to boost their RPI, will still be in effect this year but it is unlikely that it will return in the 2020 season.
The Miners will officially tip-off their season against New Mexico Highlands on Tuesday, Nov. 5 at the Don Haskins Center.