UTEP reminded us in 2009-2010 that there are more teams than just Memphis in Conference USA. The Miners became the first non-Tiger team to capture the conference crown in five years and also snapped Memphis’ 64-game league win streak. A repeat performance this year might be asking for too much though.
The Sports Bank’s 99 in 99 ranks the 72 power conference college basketball teams and top 27 mid-majors. Our countdown will lead right up to the start of the season and provide you will all the in-depth information you need to know about your team. Click here for teams #69-#99
By: David Kay
UTEP Miners (1st, 15-1 in CUSA, 26-7 overall)
Projected Depth Chart
C: Claude Britten (Sr)/Jon Bohannon (Fr)/Wayne Portalatin (Sr)
F: Jeremy Williams (Sr)/Michael Haynes (Fr)
SG: Christian Polk (Sr)/Gabriel McCulley (Jr)
G: Randy Culpepper (Sr)/Isaac Gordon (Sr)
PG: Julyan Stone (Sr)/Michael Perez (Fr)
Gone: F/C Derrick Caracter, PF-Arnett Moultire (transfer-Mississippi State), PF-Eric Moreland (transfer-Oregon State), PG-Myron Strong (dismissed)
Tony Barbee parlayed his success at UTEP into a head coaching position at Auburn this off-season, opening the door for Tim Floyd to return to El Paso where he was once an assistant coach.
Last season UTEP was able to use their combination of size up-front and depth in the backcourt to de-throne Memphis atop the Conference USA standings. With Derrick Caracter leaving early for the NBA and Arnett Moultrie choosing to transfer, the Miners will have a major dependence on their experienced guard play this season.
The conference’s leading returning scorer is back for the Miners in Randy Culpepper. He will be flanked by Christian Polk and Julyan Stone as a senior trio of guards that might be the best of any non-power conference school in the country. The backcourt depth is somewhat of a concern since reserve Myron Strong was dismissed in early August for violating team rules but freshman Michael Perez could prove to be an outstanding late signing by Floyd.
Assuming UTEP goes with a three-guard look in the starting line-up, small forward Jeremy Williams will likely be asked to play bigger this season in a thin frontcourt that lost would-be impact freshman Rashonte Harris because he did not qualify academically. Claude Britten saw limited action off the bench last season but will need to assume the role as the big body inside. Expect him to be pushed for playing time by freshman Jon Bohannon. If the inside play can hold their own and the backcourt lives up their billing, UTEP should be competing for the second spot in the conference behind Memphis.
Did You Know? UTEP and New Mexico State play their annual home and home this season with the November 23rd game being their 200th match-up. As a Midwestern, I had no idea that rivalry existed and has such history.
Player to Watch: Randy Culpepper, G
At 6-0, Culpepper is a shooting guard in a point guard’s body. Don’t let his shortcomings fool you though, this kid is a crazy athlete and can jump out of the gym. He also has great range on his jump shot and hit a respectable 36.8% of his three-point tries last season. He will determine just how dangerous the Miners can be in 2010-2011.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/23 vs. New Mexico State
11/26 vs. Georgia Tech (Legends Classic)
11/27 vs. Michigan/Syracuse (Legends Classic)
11/30 at New Mexico State
12/18 vs. Texas Tech
12/23 at BYU
Other 99 in 99’s:
#68 Ole Miss
#69 George Mason
#71 Weber State
#74 Central Florida
#75 Wake Forest
#76 Georgia Tech
#78 Oklahoma State
#82 South Carolina
#86 Penn State
#87 South Florida
#89 Boston College
#93 Oregon State
#97. Iowa State