LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 14: Head coach Tim Floyd of the UTEP Miners talks to his players Gabriel McCulley #23 and D'Von Campbell #55 during their game against the UNLV Rebels at the Thomas & Mack Center December 14, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. UNLV won 65-54. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
The Arizona Wildcats have added a two-game series against the UTEP Miners to their basketball schedule, according to Bruce Pascoe, and the pairing is no doubt partially an agreement thanks to the close relationship between UA coach Sean Miller and Tim Floyd, the former USC coach and near-hire for the Wildcats.
Facing the Miners on Nov. 15 at McKale Center, the Wildcats won't head to El Paso, Texas, until the 2014-15 season because of an oddly-scheduled series with San Diego State, Pascoe writes. Director of basketball operations Ryan Reynolds told Pascoe that only one game has yet to be set for next season, and that game will probably be against a big six conference opponent on the road.
The match-up with UTEP is a solid addition as Miller continues to build his non-conference schedule to the competitive level of the old days. Of course, we don't expect it'll reach the heights of the Lute Olson era.
That developed behind a coach with consistently elite teams and the mindset that he could benefit from beating his own teams to a mental pulp before heading to the easier Pac-12 play. That philosophy probably won't stand in this new age, especially considering that the Wildcats couldn't even make an NIT run last season.
In UTEP, Arizona will get a mid-major C-USA team with major Division I coaching from Floyd, who is an astute tactician and solid talent-evaluator.
After all, this is a guy who had the recruiting arm-strength to pull Momo Jones, Solomon Hill and Derrick Williams to USC before he was ousted there. And the fact he must have seen something in those three, especially Williams, goes to show his strengths.
The Miners had no scruples about scooping up Floyd after he left the Trojans in a cloud of scandal, and there's good reason for it. Floyd led the team to a 15-17 record in 2011-12, but things are only expected to be improving for a coach who had success at Iowa State and then went to the NBA to coach the Chicago Bulls and New Orleans Hornets.
As Miller told Dana O'Neil last month, his relationship with Floyd is a new one. One could guess that Miller could have gained respect for Floyd from his relationship with guys like Williams, Jones and Hill, but in any case, it's an obviously unique situation considering that Floyd turned down the Wildcats back during what Wildcat fans probably felt was the longest coaching search of the century.
UTEP isn't a big-name program, but Miller will get what he wants out of playing the Miners. Arizona will be tested in its execution against a mid-major who could have athletes capable of matching the Wildcats.
And macro-analyzing the series, Floyd will finally return to McKale Center, not as coach, but as foe.
Such is the world of college basketball, where everyone knows each other and everything always seems to come full circle.