Breakdown of the 2013-2014 UTEP Men's Basketball Schedule

USA TODAY Sports

Now with the schedule out, it's time to start projecting outcomes. It's never too early at the Rush...

Initially, many Miner fans were disappointed with the lack of marquee opponents on the UTEP schedule this season. Last year saw the Miners play Arizona, Oregon, UNLV, Oklahoma, Clemson, and Vanderbilt. While the 13-14 schedule does not feature as many marquee games as last year's, let's take a moment to look at the upside this (still pretty strong) schedule has for the Miners.

Tim Floyd stated many times last year that they were playing a tough schedule 'a year' early, implying that he believed his team was still a year away from being able to compete game-in and game-out against grade A competition. Well, that year has arrived. Floyd knows he's got a veteran team with a few years of playing together under its belt ready to host a Memphis-less Conference USA Tournament at the end of the year. Sure the Miners won't be able to measure themselves against elite competition early on and build the confidence that comes with that, but the confidence will come from holding their own in those games last year. This team is experienced enough to win the games it should and compete against the better teams. If you factor this in, it would be extremely hard to envision the Miners not winning more than 20 games. If the Miners can continue to defend at an elite level, find a rhythmic consistency throughout the season, and have a few key players step up offensively, then even a 25-30 win season is attainable.

Don't believe me? Here's the schedule again with my personal projections. Feel free to predict your own outcomes in the comments section:

Opponent Zoo's Projection Projected Record Notes
Loyola N.O. Wolfpack Win 1-0. Floyd is throwing a bone to a former assistant who now coaches at Loyola. The Wolfpack get a marquee test early on and the Miners get an easy W to start the year.
at NMSU Aggies Win 2-0. This will be a close game because it always is. I'll go with the Miners to edge an NMSU team with a few new faces early on.
B4A Home Game TBA Win 3-0. We don't know the opponent yet, but the mainland games usually offer up competition from lower conferences. Should be a victory at home.
Colorado State Rams Win 4-0. Last year the Miners almost stormed back from a big deficit to beat the Rams on their home floor. This year, the Rams lose seniors Colton Iverson, Greg Smith, Wes Elkmeier, and Pierce Hornung. Eustachy will still put together a good team, but the Miners should have the edge with cohesion, experience, and home court.
v Tennessee Volunteers Loss 4-1. The Volunteers have a strong frontcourt that will test Bo, Lang, Willms and Hunter early and will have ex-Memphis Tiger Antonio Barton to . I'll predict a loss although the game could go either way if the Miners execute Floyd's gameplan.
v Xavier Musketeers Loss 4-2. Xavier vs Iowa is a toss-up in the Bahamas. Iowa is likely a bubble team from the Big Ten and Xavier should bounce back from a rare down year (17-14 record). I'll take Iowa, meaning the Miners would get Xavier in the second round. 6'3 guard Semaj Christon is a sophomore stud that would give the Miners fits. He's too small and quick to put J-Wash on him. The rest of the team will be improved as well. I'll go ahead and project an early loss.
v Wake Forest Demon Deacons Win 5-2. Two losses would put UTEP in the last place game. Wake Forest still looks like an ACC cellar-dweller. I'm taking the Miners in a wash.
Sacramento State Hornets Win 6-2. Floyd will have his guys playing sharp after dropping two out of three in the Bahamas.
New Orleans Privateers Win 7-2. Tim Floyd's former school was 8-18 last year. This should be a second straight victory.
Northwestern State Demons Win 8-2. TRAP GAME. Northwestern State was a NCAA Tournament team a year ago and like to play fast. They could be Southland favorites. The Miners shouldn't overlook this opponent.
at Washington State Cougars Win 9-2. A road game against a Pac-12 opponent is becoming a mainstay of the Miner schedule. Two years ago, an inexperienced UTEP team almost upset Oregon on the road. Last year Arizona pummeled the Miners in Tucson. The Cougs will be led by a tough pair of 6'3 junior guards in Royce Woolridge and DaVonte Lacy. A challenge, but I'm picking the Miners.
Montana State Bobcats Win 10-2. Not to be confused with their much better in-state rivals, Montana. Another easy win for the Miners.
Haskins Invitational TBA Win 11-2. Don't know who is coming for this Tourney, but the trend the last few years have shown how difficult it is nowadays to get marquee opponents for this event. I'll put in two victories until we hear actual names.
Haskins Invitational TBA Win 12-2.
Charlotte 49ers * Win 13-2 (1-0) I'm projecting 7 straight wins heading into C-USA play. The fans will be pumped to tip off a season with great potential. The 49ers are capable of winning, but not if the Miners bring their A-game.
Marshall Thundering Herd * Win 14-2 (2-0) Floyd will likely zero in on Elijah Pittman. Not sure who else would step up on the road for the Herd.
at MTSU Blue Raiders * Loss 14-3 (2-1) The Blue Raiders lose a lot of players from last year's excellent team, but their pillar is defense. They'll be looking to make a statement in their first test in the new conference. I'm thinking this could be a loss.
at UAB Blazers * Loss 14-4 (2-2) The Blazers are always a tough out on the road. UAB has everyone back pretty much and will be confident after rallying to beat the Miners last year.
UTSA Roadrunners * Win 15-4 (3-2) UTSA should be one of the weaker opponents in Conference-USA. The Miners can't afford to drop games like these.
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs * Win 16-4 (4-2) The Bulldogs will be good. This might be the premiere game of the conference schedule. The home crowd should tip the balance.
Rice Owls * Win 17-4 (5-2) Good old Rice. The Owls should be better, but still not good enough to beat the Miners on the road. They're the epitome of pesky though.
at East Carolina Pirates * Win 18-4 (6-2) Last year it took a buzzer beater from McKenzie Moore to beat the Pirates. It should be close again, but UTEP should be more improved than ECU.
at Old Dominion Monarchs * Win 19-4 (7-2) Old Dominion could challenge UTEP for the attendance mark this year, but they may still be a year or two away from competing at the top of the standings after a 5-25 season.
FAU Owls * Win 20-4 (8-2) By this point, I've projected the possibility for a 20th victory in mid-February. The Don should be packed an Miner Fever should be at a height. No way the Owls beat the Miners in El Paso.
FIU Golden Panthers * Win 21-4 (9-2) Same goes for the Panthers. Could be a tricky game, but the Miners are simply better.
at Tulane Green Wave * Win 22-4 (10-2) I feel bad for the Wave. They were building a solid team, and now, everyone's left. Might be another tough year for them.
at Southern Miss Golden Eagles * Loss 22-5 (10-3) I think the Golden Eagles have enough proud players left from last year's squad to knock off the first place Miners at home late in the year. The Miners will want a rematch in EP.
Tulsa Golden Hurricane * Win 23-5 (11-3) The final game before the Tourney is actually another good one. The Don should be electric.
at North Texas Mean Green * Win 24-5 (12-3) As long as the Miners aren't already looking ahead, they should sweep the final road trip at UNT and UTSA.
at UTSA Roadrunners * Win 25-5 (13-3) The Miners lucked out in drawing UTSA as the only team in C-USA they play twice.
C-USA Tourney
Day 1 I'm projecting the Miners to finish first in the regular season, which this year would mean that they would get a pass to the quarterfinals of the tourney. Seeds 9-16 play on day 1. I'm projecting (9) Rice beating (16) UTSA, (10) Marshall beating (15) FAU, (11) Tulane beating (14) North Texas, and (13) FIU beating (12) ODU
Day 2 Seeds 5-8 play the winners of day 1. I'm predicting (5) UAB beating (13) FIU, (6) MTSU beating (11) Tulane, (10) Marshall beating (7) ECU, and (8) Charlotte beating (9) Rice
Day 3 v (8) Charlotte 49ers Win 26-5 The Miners would finally play on the third day against either the 8, 9 or 16 seed. Let's say it's Charlotte and the Miners win. Let's also say (2) So Miss beats (10) Marshall, (3) La Tech beats (6) MTSU and (4) Tulsa beats (5) UAB
Semis v (4) Tulsa Hurricane Win 27-5 A tough rematch against the Hurricane, but come on. What Miner fan is not going to predict UTEP making the C-USA final on its home floor.
Champ v (3) So Miss Eagles Win 28-5 Auto bid baby!

Obviously, no one can predict an entire season with precision. There are unforeseen injuries that could occur, there are freshman stars that could emerge on other teams, there are teams that could just plain under or over perform. But all things being equal, the results I listed above are not all that farfetched. Maybe you think I'm being too optimistic or underrating a few opponents too much. Even then, anything less than 20 wins is still hard to imagine. Some may go the other way and say an upset or two at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament could catapult the Miners into a monster year. Outside of that tourney, there's really no opponent on the Miners' schedule that is a sure loss.

What do you think Rush fans?

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