Ahead of the season starting next Wednesday, Nov. 25, the UTEP men's basketball team released its full 2020-21 schedule featuring a shortened non-conference slate and an 18-game C-USA schedule.

Most notably, their two rivals in New Mexico and New Mexico State were left out of the non-conference slate. Instead, the Miners will face a pair of top programs on the road in Arizona (Nov. 29) and St. Mary's (Dec. 8).

"[The schedule] is a major work in progress," said head coach Rodney Terry. "It's something that we meet about every day."

"We're excited about the start of the season. I think this has been the longest stretch the guys have been a part of without playing a game. It's the longest stretch I've been a part of. We had a competitive schedule put in place but COVID hit and like everyone, we had to reset the dial... When you're putting together a schedule in September, it was very difficult."

Here is the full schedule:

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham did not approve a return-to-play model for the universities in the state, citing COVID-19 statewide public health orders. By restricting the colleges from returning to practice and play, both colleges in New Mexico would likely be out of the picture for any firm scheduling that the Miners wanted.

"It's been challenging for them," Terry explained. "A lot of it is out of their control... It's been up in the air on what they're able to do and where they're able to go."

The Wildcats finished last year 21-11 and the Pac-12 affiliate is set to return a heap of players to their roster this year. Arizona defeated NM State last year (83-53) in their non-conference slate and will host the Miners early on into this season.

Coming out of the West Coast Conference, St. Mary's has turned into a mid-major power. They ended last year with a 26-8 record and they lost to No. 2 Gonzaga in the WCC Championship game (84-66).

There is a large gap between the St. Mary's game and the C-USA start of the season. Per the coaching staff, there is a desire to continue to add more games—if possible. On Tuesday, the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational was canceled since the tournament organizers couldn't field enough teams for the game. Maybe the Miners find a midseason tournament and join as a late addition.

For their 18-game conference schedule, the Miners will alternate from playing the same opponent in back-to-back days on Friday and Saturday throughout the season. This will help the league to administer COVID-19 tests on Friday and allow the teams to get a pair of games in, trying to limit the number of reschedulings/cancelations.

Their C-USA slate kicks off on Jan. 1 against Southern Miss. They will host Rice on Jan. 8 for their conference home opener. UTEP's only home-and-home series in the league will be against UTSA. The Miners won't have a chance to play Western Kentucky in their league schedule, who is one of the top teams in the league.

The C-USA Championships will be held March 10-13 at The Star in Frisco. The top 12 schools will advance to postseason play.

"We have a blend of experience of guys that have played and those that are adapting to a new system. I like this group," Terry said.

TICKETING INFORMATION PER UTEP ATHLETICS:

"Due to social distancing guidelines and COVID-19 protocols, the Don Haskins Center has a very limited capacity this year for fans and is currently sold out. At this time, single game tickets will not be made available for sale. It is recommended that fans who are still interested in potentially attending games sign up on the men’s basketball season ticket waitlist. Should seats become available, individuals on the waitlist will be contacted and provided with more information at that time. Additionally, fans are encouraged to participate in the virtual “Defend The Don” campaign where they can receive exclusive Miners merchandise, gifts and virtual experiences while supporting the UTEP men’s basketball program. For questions and more information, fans should call (915) 747-UTEP."

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