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Arizona vs. UTEP: Time, TV and previewing the Miners with Miner Rush

Learn all the things you need to know about the UTEP Miners from a UTEP expert

Gary A.Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Wildcats have their first true road game Friday night when they travel to El Paso to take on the UTEP Miners.




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To find out about the UTEP team, we talked with Alex Nicolas from Miner Rush to get his thoughts on how the Miners match up with Arizona. You can find my Q&A with him about Arizona here.

1. Sean Miller's had a lot of praise this week for Vince Hunter, who's averaging a double-double this year. When's the last time UTEP had a player as talented as him, and what makes him so effective?

It's been awhile since UTEP has had an athlete like VH, but there have been big numbers producers over the years, and game changing scorers, but nothing as physical, and talented like Hunter.

The main thing that will jump out is his motor, and relentlessness on the boards. He knows how to get inside the paint, and can finish with the best of them, though that will be fully tested against fellow NBA prospects on Friday.

When Vince is rebounding, that usually means he is scoring too, his overall activeness in all phases is his ticket to the NBA, and the reason for his potential being so high IMO.

2. In your preview, you mention UTEP's, let's say, inconsistencies, at guard. How well have they been doing at defending on the perimeter, and how do you see them performing against shooters like Gabe York and Elliott Pitts?

That will be another huge test for UTEP. They've struggled with that early on in the year; though in the past two games they have shut down the three point line, albeit against the non-Gabe York's and Elliott Pitts' of the college basketball world.

We had a discussion about this on our podcast and the best way is using UTEP's length with Earvin Morris, Julian Washburn, and hell you might even see Vince Hunter out there trying to put a hand in someone's face.

What worries more than their shooting ability, is ability to penetrate and feed Arizona's bigs. Floyd has been drilling this mix of young guards to cut off the driver, and cutter which is still an issue, so that aspect worries more than defending the three point line in this one. Those guys including T.J. McConnell are seasoned vets who understand to take what the defender gives them.

3. UTEP is averaging a +5 rebounding margin while Arizona is at +9.1 this season. Have the Miners faced a guy with the size of Kaleb Tarczewski thus far, and how have they dealt with that?

Yeah Floyd has scheduled up the past few years, so guys like Cedrick Lang and Matt Willms have faced Perry Ellis, Matt Stainbrook, Anthony Bennett, Robert Upshaw off the top of my head, but to me Tarczewski is a different animal.

Expect Lang v. Tarczewski to be a slugfest, Ced hasn't scored much the past two games, but is very savvy on offense with or without the ball, and has shown the ability to shut down powerful, athletic bigs.

Foul trouble will dictate the rebounding margin IMO, if UTEP finds itself in frontcourt foul trouble; they will be in trouble on the boards as well.

4. Is it fair to call UTEP a second half team? Just looks that way based on their scoring stats between halves.

Kinda, sorta, I don't even think the coaches know at this point. But what is fair to say is this team has a bad habit of getting off to slow starts.

Floyd's teams notoriously get off to slow starts, and are not really known for being offensive machines. Just like I'm sure it happens with Arizona, defense fuels the offense.

It's not that UTEP has horrible shot selection, or doesn't come out with energy right off the opening tip. The Miners have a tendency to miss good looks, and it's just really unexplainable.

That being said, if UTEP starts slow like they have all year, they will find themselves down double digits pretty fast against the Cats.

5. There was a brief period of time when it looked like Tim Floyd was going to be the head coach at Arizona instead of Sean Miller. How have the El Paso fans embraced him, and what's kind of the general feeling about him amongst the fanbase?

I think fans love the fact he stepped in and backed up the city of El Paso with the whole Andy Enfield running his mouth saga last season. While there are no NCAA tourney banners hanging from his tenure, Floyd still has majority of the support from fans, because he is a "Haskins guy", and rightfully deserves that respect.

But there are a few message boarders out there that are tired of the mishaps in the recruiting game, and question how it took guys like Tony Barbee, and Billy Gillespie just a few seasons to reach the Big Dance, while CTF is in year five and only a NIT banner is the major post-season accomplishment.

Then you have guys like me who praise his efforts in building a mid-major program the right way with staggered recruiting classes, using the Prop 48 option C-USA allows for high level players who won't qualify anywhere else, and just fielding a team that plays hard, cares about defense, and fits his system.

So in all its mixed right now, and with the hype Floyd built up himself through the media for this year's team, interesting to see where that swings at seasons end.

6. For Arizona fans that may be going to El Paso, what's the one thing that you think they need to see in the city, and what's the one thing they need to make sure they seek out in Don Haskins Center?

Don't mean to rub this in, but if they get there early enough in daylight the Downtown Ballpark is really something to see. The Cincinnati entertainment district right across the street from the Don should also be pretty lively and have a great atmosphere, along with some good and affordable eats and drinks.

I would suggest taking a walk around the Don, there are plaques of UTEP athletes from the past and recent past, and also a trophy case in the south end which displays all of Haskins' hardware.

Other than that, the atmosphere, and history of UTEP basketball will seek them out during the game, with the rocking crowd that is expected, UTEP in-game traditions, and the starting lineup intro video that will give even Arizona fans who know all about UTEP chills.

Thanks again to Alex for the time, and be sure to visit Miner Rush for all things UTEP.