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UTEP vs. Arizona: Wildcats face disciplined Miners led by familiar face in Tim Floyd

The Arizona Wildcats open a home-and-home series with the UTEP Miners and Tim Floyd, the one-time head coaching candidate.

Ethan Miller

Time: 8 p.m. MST


Arizona fans thought they wouldn't see Tim Floyd's face again, and maybe they were happy about it.

But the man once a frontrunner to be head coach for the Arizona Wildcats will waltz into McKale Center tonight coaching the UTEP Miners. They'll face a Sean Miller-led UA team -- Floyd's good friend Sean Miller.

Like him or not, Floyd has the respect around the NCAA community. There's a reason Jim Livengood courted him to become the permanent replacement for Lute Olson, and had he taken the job, Miller might still be at Xavier, or perhaps at another elite school (by the way, check out Bruce Pascoe's solid interview with Floyd, who talks about Miller's ethical recruiting, his coaching tenure at USC and more).

But as it stands, Floyd is making a push at UTEP. The Miners finished 15-17 last year, but Floyd's tactical and strict coaching style -- one that gave him a job in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls -- has been successful from Iowa State to USC.

Floyd's recruiting chops are there, too. He was examined for any wrongdoing in O.J. Mayo's recruitment then cleared. He had the brains to pick up commitments from Derrick Williams, Momo Jones and Solomon Hill for USC before he left. We all know those three turned out pretty well, no matter their three trajectories after landing at Arizona.

Point is, the Wildcats have their hands full tonight.

UTEP committed seven turnovers against Oral Roberts in its season opener, winning 69-49. Oral Roberts, for what it's worth, went 27-7 last year and even blew out then-No. 9 Xavier 64-42. Transitive theories don't often work, but let's just say UTEP beat up a well-coached team.

Skinny 6-foot-10 center John Bohannon led the Miners with 17 points while 6-foot guard Jacques Streeter controlled the game with seven assists. Brothers Julian Washburn, a sophomore, and freshman Chris Washburn both scored in the double-digits against Oral Roberts.

The Miners have length and forced Oral Roberts into 20 turnovers that helped them to 22 points off miscues. They also dominated the points in the paint to the tune of 40-6, won in transition with 18 fastbreak points and had 22 points off the bench.

Arizona might be forced to go with a similar lineup as they did against Charleston Southern in the opener, putting four ball-handlers on the floor with one big man who is agile enough to stay in front of penetrating guards and Bohannon.

Again, a well-executing team could pose problems for Arizona's young frontline. At the least, it'll be another valuable learning experience for them.

CBS has this one as the second-best game of Thursday behind Illinois State and Drexel.

So queue the upset alert, because the young Wildcats will have a challenge in McKale.

And if there's any more reason to worry, look no further than Floyd, who just might find it bittersweet to pull off the upset of the No. 12 team in the nation -- one that he could have had for himself.