The UTEP men's basketball team will have their work cut out for them this weekend when they battle one of the best teams in Conference USA. UAB enters the series with a 14-2 overall record and other than a road loss at Charlotte, they have been dominant in league play. It's quite a start for head coach Andy Kennedy, who took over at his alma mater last March. Kennedy coached at Ole Miss from 2006-2018, where he was twice named SEC Coach of the Year and is the winningest coach in the history of the Rebels.

When you compare the Miners and Blazers in each category, the two teams stack up evenly with the exception of one major category. UAB allows just 58.1 points per game from their opponents, while UTEP gives up an average of 70.4 points per game. The defensive effort from UAB will be a huge factor this weekend, especially since they like to zone their opponents.

UTEP Athletics/Michael P Reese.

For UTEP that means that they will have to try and establish an inside game, even though they have no big men that feast on the post since Bryson Williams will most likely be double and triple teamed throughout the two games. If they cannot attack the basket, then the Miners will need to shoot well in Birmingham, something that has been a challenge for them for most of the season. UAB also loves to press their opponents, both full court and half court. With the exception of the last two minutes against Southern Miss, the Miners have done well this season handling the press.

Jimmy Mitchell

Offensively, UAB plays fundamental basketball, featuring pick-and-rolls, good low post play, and a strong attack to the rim. The Blazers bring back three starters from last season, a trio of guards who are all averaging in double figures. Senior Tyreek Scott-Grayson (9.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg), junior Tavin Lovan (13.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg), and sophomore Jalen Benjamin (11.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg) are all players to watch this weekend. Benjamin was part of the C-USA all freshman team and all three players have started the majority of their games with the Blazers.

UAB Athletics

UAB also has a trio of newcomers who have been terrific so far. Graduate guard Michael Ertel (12.6 ppg) was a second-team all Sun Belt player last season at Louisiana Monroe. Fellow graduate guard Quan Jackson (10 ppg) joined him on the Sun Belt second-team last season when he played at Georgia Southern. Seven-foot center Trey Jemison (7.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg) transferred from Clemson and the junior could be a huge factor against the Miners.