And it has nothing to do with MLK, as great a man as he was. This dream was one of the kind you don't want to wake up from. First, you're going to have to get your minds out of the gutter, because it wasn't that kind of dream either. Now that we have cleared up a thing or two, I'll tell you about this dream, but first I'll set the stage.
Here we are in the midst of a crucial stretch in C-USA play. There are several scenarios that could play themselves out in the last week of the regular season. It's crunch time. UTEP is in a position where they could use some help from long time conference foe, UAB. The Blazers are perfectly capable of beating either/or LaTech and MTSU, especially on their home court. However, with that said, there is no certainty upon which the Miners can rest with assurance. Even if UAB pulls out a win or two this week, the Miners still have to take care of business against UNT and UTSA. I do believe we will come out with two Ws this week. That said, regardless of what UAB does, the Miners are going to have to play very controlled, fundamentally sound basketball to have any chance at winning the conference tourney. We all have become acutely aware of the Miner weaknesses. They are glaringly obvious at times. They've been exposed by several teams dating back to the FAU game. I need not go into this, because we all know. I say all this because these thoughts, and others, circulate themselves through my mind on almost a constant basis, at this time. Because of the regularity with which I'm having these thoughts, I think a thought-groove has worn deep into my psyche...kind of like how over time, the heavy desert Southwest rains tend to deepen and widen the existing arroyos. And because of this thought-groove (for lack of better words), which has deepened over the past few days, I think it is only fitting that this-whole-situation has worked it's way into my dreamworld. Now on to the good stuff.
It's Saturday morning, March 15th, and UTEP is playing SoMiss in the conference tourney finals. The crowd is huge...12,000+...maybe a sellout...it's irrelevant though because the intensity from those who are in attendance, is enormous. The energy is contagious. The game starts much like it did when we played them a week ago. The Miners are clicking on all cylinders. We are protecting the defensive glass like we did against Tennessee. We are collecting the occasional offensive board, but we don't need many because our shooting percentage is through the roof...somewhere round 60%. But for some reason there is also this expectancy, from the whole crowd, that things this good won't last. And they're right. Towards the beginning of the second half, SoMiss begins to gain the momentum, slowly at first, then things begin to quickly unravel for the Miners. Really, a lot like the first meeting between the two. The home crowd begins to get restless and the energy turns to one of frustration and doubt. The crowd actually starts to thin out a bit, as people head for the exits. The level of play is fairly equal, but SoMiss keeps exploiting our one glaring weakness. USM continues to full court press. We are having a very difficult time getting the ball up the court. When we do get the chance to set up our offense, SoMiss just collapses on our bigs and clogs the lane. Coop and Wash are not necessarily cold, but not necessarily lighting it up either. The press is what is really killing us. Our defense is at least keeping the game from getting too out of hand. USM goes up by 11. There is about 6 minutes left in the game. Somehow, I gain a birds eye view of the huddle that the Miners and CTF assemble into during a time out. Coop is exhausted and tells Floyd that he needs help bringing the ball up court. "I can't do it alone anymore." CTF senses the urgency and truth coming from Cooper. He starts to look down his bench. His eyes focus on Caldwell. CTF and Coop look at each other and somehow Coop's eyes tell Floyd, "Not Caldwell...think outside the box...what would completely take SoMiss by surprise?" Floyd looks deeper down the bench, player by player. His eyes settle on a kid way down at the end of the pine. The kid isn't even looking at CTF, because he hasn't been called on all season. "BROWN!", Floyd yells out. "Brown!", he says again. The crowd isn't aware yet, of what Floyd plans to do, but we are all watching as the huddle opens a bit and Josh Brown makes his way towards it. Confusion takes over the whole crowd. There is a mixture of "in Floyd we trust" but "Are you serious? What are you thinking Floyd?" Again I gain access to the huddle and I hear CTF say to JB, "Do you remember how I described you as a recruit?" Brown kind of shrugs. CTF says, "I described you as 'a jet of a point guard'. I'm sorry I have to burn your red shirt year so late into the season, but I need ya Josh. Make it worth it. Play your heart out these last 5-6 minutes. Don't worry about making mistakes. Just do what you know to do. I need you to help Coop out. I want you bringing the ball up the court. You can beat this press." The Miners then take the court. The crowd really doesn't know what to make of the situation...but there is a growing sense of anticipation. Immediately JB shows why he was offered a schollie. He easily beats the press, by himself. But beyond beating the press, he is aggressive and is driving the lane. As the lane collapses, he dishes to Hunter, Bo and Willms. SoMiss is starting to get rattled and steps up the pressure. Brown, and the Miners, continue to cross the 10 second line with ease. The score is closing quickly, however, time is winding down just as quick. It comes down to the last possession. After USM drains as much clock as possible, they miss at their chance to go up by 4 and UTEP grabs the board. I can't remember how much time was left but it had to be in the 12-13 seconds range. The Miners call a TO. Not sure what happens in the huddle as I am not allowed in on this one (even though its my damn dream). I watch like everybody else as the Miners take the court. It's loud and there is a shit ton of nervous energy that has settled in the Don. UTEP gets the ball inbounds. The press is stifling and Coop is having trouble moving the ball up court. Brown gets open and receives the ball from Coop, and Coop takes off. It takes near the full 10 seconds to get the ball across half court. With time almost expired, Brown finds Bo open in the lane, but instead of shooting it, Bo sees Coop near the baseline, out beyond the arc. With time almost expired, Bo dishes out to Coop. Without any hesitation, Coop releases and swishes the trey as time expires. Of course the crowd is going wild. Some people storm the court as others high five and hug in disbelief and amazement. Everybody knows that we're going to the BigDance. There is a sense of relief and a common thought that this team is one of the most special teams to ever play in Orange. Its difficult to capture the emotion of the moment in written word, but if you can imagine UTEP overcoming all the odds stacked against them this year, and going out against all those odds and winning the tourney...if you can imagine how that would feel to you...that's how the dream was. It was so real, I woke up thinking that UTEP was going dancing. It took a minute to realize that I had dreamed it.
The weird thing was that I wasn't disappointed when I woke up to reality. It almost immediately renewed...or maybe just re-awakened, some faith that had dwindled within myself a little over the last two games. I saw the possibilities. I think JB was just a symbol for us needing to pull something out of our hats to win this thing. I also had the peaceful feeling that even if we don't win this thing, I can find plenty to be grateful for with this Miner team. I almost lost my shit in late December and early January. I was about to call it quits...not really...but I knew something had to happen. I thought that it all needed to start with CTF. I was calling for his head because I hadn't seen results on my time table. Boy did he prove me to be an ass, though. Floyd has done a remarkable job guiding this team. It is my belief that he still has something up his sleeve. I highly doubt that Josh Brown is that certain something up the sleeve...but this Miner team is far from buried. I trust CTF, and his staff, to bring it. I am so ready to be surprised, yet one more time this season.
My tone has changed...changed from, "I had a dream" to the borrowed and infamous phrase of, "I have a dream..."
Let's go MINERS!!!