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It Might Get Loud: Rice is Walking in to a Hornets Nest

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Who says there's nothing to do in El Paso on a Saturday night? The #25 UTEP Miners (21-5, 12-1) host the Rice Owls (8-19, 1-12) Saturday night in front of a sellout crowd.Think about it: Saturday night game; UTEP's first home game as a ranked team in nearly two decades; UTEP's first-ever C-USA regular season title on the line. It's going to be a madhouse.

The Numbers

RICE UTEP
KenPom Ranking 255 30
Record 8-19, 1-12 21-5, 12-1
Offensive Efficiency 94.4 (271) 107.5 (81)
Defensive Efficiency 104.0 (226) 88.1 (17)
Rice Road/ UTEP Home Record 1-10 13-2

Fear Factor: 0/10

Rice has lost four straight games by an average of 15 points. On Wednesday, Marshall pounded the Owls at home by 23 points. I've been watching Rice highlights and reviewing the box scores and summaries from their last few games. I just can't imagine a scenario where they go into a sold-out Don Haskins Center and beat the Miners. I really like their 1-2 tandem of guard Tamir Jackson and forward Arsalan Kazemi. They play hard, with energy, but don't have much of a supporting cast. Kazemi is really a role player who's being asked to do more on offense than he probably should. A glaring lack of depth will often force that situation on hard-working players.

Eye on The Prize

Rice doesn't have the athletes to run with UTEP over a full forty minutes. UTEP has two very difficult games coming up to close out the regular season: at Marshall, and home against UAB. Ordinarily, this would be the perfect setting for a letdown game. I don't see UTEP taking their eyes off the ball here for three reasons: 1) The Don is going to be electric; 2) UTEP wants to clinch a share of the C-USA title; and 3) the team wants to preserve it's first ranking in almost twenty years.

The Bottom Line:

UTEP has too much on the line to take their foot off the gas tomorrow night. Look for the Miners to pull ahead in the second half and get some much needed rest for their big men. It will also be interesting to see how Julyan Stone comes back after one of his worst game of the year against Southern Miss. Expect a monster game from the veteran, a couple of Culpepper tomahawks, and a Miner win.

The Poll

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