UTEP Men’s Basketball Fans Star in Groundhog Day
One of my favorite movies is the 1993 classic Groundhog Day. The movie is about Phil Connors, a TV weatherman played by Bill Murray, who was covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Phil was forced to relive that day in Punxsutawney over and over again, until he did everything right in the town as well as in his personal life.
In recent years, many UTEP men's basketball fans feel like they are Bill Murray in their own version of Groundhog Day, except this story is not a comedy. The premise is the same: each season Miner fans wake up excited about the promise of Tim Floyd's basketball team, but they struggle to win games in November and December, only to turn things around when conference play starts in January. Then the team loses in the conference tournament and does not go to the postseason.
Earlier this month, I was guilty of buying into the preseason hype machine, and I wrote about how this season could be a special one for UTEP fans. However, the beginning of the 2017-18 campaign has been a disaster because of last minute transfers and injuries. On October 21st, sophomore Kelvin Jones decided to leave the team apparently because his father was upset over lack of playing time. Prior to Jones leaving, 6-10 freshman forward Joey St. Pierre also left the team to be closer to home. A few weeks ago, UTEP lost three games in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and senior center Matt Willms fractures his wrist. The Miners suddenly have no low post players on their roster besides junior Paul Thomas and freshman Tirus Smith. To make matters worse, freshman guard Trey Wade hyperextended his knee and is out indefinitely. Senior Omega Harris has been playing all season with a back injury and it has limited his effectiveness.
The 1-4 Miners host Lamar tonight, NMSU on Thursday, and New Mexico on Saturday. They also welcome Washington State in less than two weeks, and the Cougars just won the Wooden Legacy Tournament which included upsetting #21 St. Mary's Friday night. UTEP will have to play their toughest non-conference stretch of the season shorthanded and Floyd told the El Paso Times last week "I've never seen nothing like it." The problem is that we have seen the same movie over and over again. A mid-major that was once considered one of the most respected basketball programs in the country is now a forgotten name come March Madness every year. When will Groundhog Day end for Miner fans?