UTEP released it's men's basketball non-conference schedule today, and Miner fans can mark December 19th as the biggest date of their college hoops season. UTEP, who finished 2013-14 with an RPI of 103, will host the Arizona Wildcats for the first time in 20 years. The game is clearly a must-see at the Don Haskins Center, since the Wildcats advanced to the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament a few months ago. Arizona finished last season with an RPI of 2. Another potential big home game as part of the WestStar Bank Don Haskins Invitational is North Dakota State (RPI 35), a popular bracket buster in the NCAA Tournament. A second school from the Pac-12, Washington State (RPI 224) will also be on the home schedule. The home and home with NMSU (RPI 72), a road game with Colorado State (RPI 182), and the neutral site Wooden Legacy Tournament in Anaheim round out the notable games for the Miners.

Steve Kaplowitz.
Steve Kaplowitz.

It is hard to gauge the true strength of schedule of UTEP's conference games. Arizona is a huge matchup for Coach Tim Floyd and NMSU is always a war. If North Dakota State can replace the three seniors that helped lead their Cinderella run, that game has the potential to be interesting. Colorado State and Washington State are good schools by name, but both programs had down seasons in 2013-14. The key to UTEP's non conference RPI will be the Wooden Invitational. Xavier (RPI 47) is always tough and Long Beach State (RPI 166) will be playing close to home. The rest of the teams rumored include Washington (RPI 104), Western Michigan (RPI 64), Princeton (RPI 122), San Diego (RPI 156), and San Jose State (RPI 278). The actual match-ups in the ESPN created tournament will be announced later this summer. Here's the official release from UTEP:

June 3, 2014
Contact: Jeff Darby

UTEP Beefs Up Basketball Non-Conference Schedule With Arizona

EL PASO, TEXAS – Since Tim Floyd became UTEP’s head coach four years ago, the Miners have faced the likes of Oregon, UNLV, Colorado State, New Mexico State, Texas Tech, Nebraska, Air Force and Stephen F. Austin in non-conference play at the Don Haskins Center.

The Miners’ 2014-15 home slate is bigger and better than ever before, however, with the inclusion of 31-time NCAA Tournament participant Arizona. The Wildcats (33-5 last season) will play in El Paso for the first time in 20 years on Dec. 19.

“We are excited to announce our non-conference schedule, which will be our most challenging schedule since we’ve been here,” Floyd said. “We have two Pac-12 teams at home with Washington State in our opener followed by the University of Arizona on Dec. 19. We have two games versus NCAA Tournament team New Mexico State, a game at Colorado State and the Wooden Legacy Tournament, which will be on ESPN and has always featured one of the strongest fields in the country. The Sun Bowl Tournament, with the likes of North Dakota State who beat Oklahoma in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year, along with Kent State and Alcorn State will provide its own set of challenges. We know that this type of non-conference schedule will position us to be able to play in our league.”

Steve Kaplowitz.
Steve Kaplowitz.

Arizona has made the Sweet 16 sixteen times (including in each of the last two years), the Elite Eight 10 times, the Final Four on four occasions and won the 1997 national title.

Arizona is ranked no. 2 on ESPN analyst Jeff Goodman’s preseason list of the top-50 teams. The Wildcats return three regular starters (Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski, T.J. McConnell), along with Gabe York and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson who started 12 and six games respectively, while introducing a recruiting class ranked in the top-10 nationally with three top-100 prospects.

UTEP last faced Arizona in the Haskins Center on Dec. 17, 1994.

“I think our fans will be excited about an Arizona team coming in here that could very well be ranked number one in the country when we see them,” Floyd said.

The Miners will also host Washington State and I-10 rival NMSU in non-league action. The Miners will play host to the 53rd Annual WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational as well. UTEP will play at NMSU and Colorado State and participate in the Wooden Legacy Tournament over Thanksgiving weekend in Anaheim.

Following the annual free admission Orange & White Scrimmage (Nov. 1), UTEP’s 94th season will get underway with an exhibition against Southeastern Oklahoma State on Nov. 8. It marks the third year in a row that the Miners have tipped off their slate versus the Storm.

Washington State, under the direction of new head coach Ernie Kent, will make its first appearance in the Haskins Center since 1998 for the regular season opener on Nov. 14.

Steve Kaplowitz.
Steve Kaplowitz.

For only the sixth time in the last 24 years, UTEP and NMSU will open their two-game set in the Haskins Center on Nov. 22. The rematch is on Dec. 6 in Las Cruces. The Aggies are coming off three consecutive NCAA Tournament berths.

The Miners will take part in the Wooden Legacy Tournament Nov. 27-30 in Anaheim. The tournament field, including Xavier, will be announced this summer. UTEP will be participating in a Thanksgiving tournament for the fourth time in five years under coach Floyd. The Miners played in the Legends Classic in Atlantic City in 2010, the Old Spice Classic in Orlando in 2012 and the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas in 2013.

The Wooden Legacy Tournament begins a stretch of five straight games away from El Paso, including road matchups with Colorado State (Dec. 3) and NMSU (Dec. 6).

UTEP will start a season-long six-game homestand against Incarnate Word on Dec. 8. The Miners will battle Southeastern Louisiana on Dec. 16, Arizona on Dec. 19, then join Alcorn State, Kent State and 2014 NCAA Tournament participant North Dakota State in the Sun Bowl tournament. North Dakota State beat no. 5 seed Oklahoma, 80-75, in the “Big Dance” last spring.

UTEP has two long December breaks – one from Dec. 9-16 for finals week, and another for the holiday season from Dec. 23-30.

The Miners will shake off the rust with an exhibition game versus Langston on Dec. 30, two days prior to the start of Conference USA play on Jan. 1. The 18-game league schedule will be announced later this summer.

Season tickets will go on sale Monday, June 9.

2014-15 UTEP Men’s Basketball Non-Conference Schedule

Nov. 1 Orange & White Scrimmage
Nov. 8 Southeastern Oklahoma State (EXB)
Nov. 14 Washington State
Nov. 22 NM State
Nov. 27-30 at Wooden Legacy (Anaheim, Calif.)
Dec. 3 at Colorado State
Dec. 6 at NM State
Dec. 8 Incarnate Word
Dec. 16 Southeastern Louisiana
Dec. 19 Arizona
Dec. 21 Alcorn State (WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational)
Dec. 22 Kent State/North Dakota State (WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational)
Dec. 30 Langston (EXB)

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