National signing day for college football is only two days away, and UTEP's 2012 recruiting class is beginning to take its final shape. The Miners now have 16 confirmed verbal commitments for next season, and a few more will likely sign on the dotted line come Wednesday. With that, here's what's going on around Miner Nation, Conference USA, and the Country as a whole.
AROUND MINER NATION
UTEP women's basketball coach Keitha Adams reached a milestone last week, topping the 300 win mark with wins over Southern Miss and UCF. While Adams was certainly happy about reaching such a mark, she wasted no time praising her players in helping her get there.
"In regard to 300 (wins), it makes you reflect on all of your past players. I’m very appreciative to have had a lot of great players, and it is nice to think about them."
On Thursday the Miners bounced Southern Miss in Hattiesburg 70-63 to get Coach Adams that 300th win. Gloria Brown had a monster performance in Mississippi, going for 27 points, while pulling down a whopping 19 rebounds. Kelli Willingham also pitched in with 13 points, and Kristine Vitola finished with 12 point and 7 rebounds.
Sunday, the UCF Knights came to town, but their luck was even worse than that of the Golden Eagles. The Miners completely overwhelmed them, racing away to a 67-38 victory. Briana Green finished with 13 points, and Jenzel Nash had 12. Two other Miners finished with 8 points a piece. That win marks number 301 for coach Keitha Adams. Congratulations to Coach Adams on reaching her milestone, and congratulations to the Lady Miners on continuing their dominant run through C-USA.
**The Lady Miners received 4 votes in the latest AP Top 25 poll just released, putting them in 38th. The ESPN/USA Today poll has not been released.
Miners Waste Away 15 Point Lead, Fall to Houston
It seemed to be the night. The night that the UTEP men would finally clear the hump, and pick up a win on the road. The Miners came out of the gate strong, using a 13-0 run in just over 3 minutes, to give them a 26-13 lead with 7:52 left in the first half. They would push the lead to 15, but eventually take a 13 point advantage into the locker rooms at 38-25.
The Miners maintained their advantage through the first 10 minutes of the second half, still leading by 11 with under 10 minutes to play. But, the meltdown began. The Cougars used a 23-12 run over the final 9:47 on the contest to tie the score at 66 with only seconds remaining. A set play for Jacques Streeter was broken up as he drove the lane, the ball bounced to CJ Cooper at the wing, and he knocked down the three as time expired...Well, it was ruled just after time had expired. Overtime it was.
The Mines picked it up again as the overtime began, jumping ahead by as many as 5 early in the extra frame. But, the Cougars stormed back on the shoulders of Jonathan Simmons and Alandise Harris, and two costly turnovers by the Miners in the final minute allowed the Cougars to end the contest on a 9-0 win, and escape with the win 81-76.
John Bohannon led the way for the Miners with 17 points and 13 rebounds. Julian Washburn finished with 16 points and 8 rebounds, Michael Perez had 12 points, and Gabriel McCulley, who fouled out in regulation, finished with 11 points. The Cougars' Jonathan Simmons had game high honors with 25 points, and TaShawn Thomas (16 points, 12 rebounds) and Alandise Harris (15 points, 12 rebounds) both finished with double doubles.
The loss drops the Miners to 10-11 overall, and 3-4 in Conference USA action. Wednesday the Miners will take on Rice in Houston, and Saturday they will return home to play UAB.
UTEP football Coach Mike Price added two more verbal commitments to his 2012 recruiting class over the last 24 hours, bringing the class' total, officially, to 16. The new commits are Jerome Daniels, a 6'2 273 lb offensive guard out of Little Elm High School in Little Elm, TX, and Corey Callicut, a 6'1 185 lb wide receiver out of South Oak Cliff High School in Dallas, TX.
Both athletes were given recruiting grades of 45 by ESPN.com, and neither was give a star rating or position ranking. It's not clear what other offers Daniels was holding, but Callicut was offered by New Mexico, Oklahoma St., Iowa, Kansas, and Kansas St. Stick around for a ton more recruiting information over the next days as National Signing Day approaches.
AROUND CONFERENCE USA
Foxsports.com has done a piece on all Conference USA teams, and their needs on the field as national signing day nears. Each team's needs are broken down individually so make sure to click on "East" or "West" depending on your division to hear what Fox has to say about your team. Here is what they say about the Miners.
What’s Needed Now: The Miners have loaded up for the passing game over the past few classes, but the defense needs to finally be addressed a bit more with a talent upgrade. Mike Price went after linemen in 2009, and he’s going to do it again with prospects mostly for the defensive interior.
Team Concerns: Linebacker. The UTEP starting three are gone and linebacker is going to be a glaring issue in 2013. It’s going to take a few recruiting classes to improve the front seven, but more than anything else, the team needs bodies. The depth has to be improved across the board while hoping for some of the recruiting classes from the last few seasons to provide the offensive pop.
ESPN's resident bracketologist Joe Lunardi, who projected four Conference USA teams in the NCAA tournament last week, has now dropped that number to 2. Southern Miss is projected to be the conference champion and is given an 11 seed, matched up against the 6 seed Florida St in the Midwest Region. Memphis, who is projected as an at-large, is given a 9 seed (and rising) and is matched up with the 8 seed Wichita St. in the East Region. Marshall is projected as one of the "first four out", and UCF is projected as one of the "next four out".
Also, Southern Miss is the only Conference USA team to be receiving votes in the latest top 25 polls. The Golden Eagles grabbed 5 votes in the AP Poll, and 4 votes in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, putting them at 33rd and 36th, respectively.
Both Mountain West Conference commissioner Craig Thompson and Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky are said to be working furiously on getting a general agreement into place for the 2012 football season. While the agreement wouldn't have any affect on matchups until at least the following season, it is a sign that the two sides are very content in making this merger go through.
Sports by Brooks is also reporting that the MTN network employees have been informed that the network could be completely done with after the 2012 conference baseball tournament, and legal parties for both sides are currently exploring the legal ramifications, especially because of television deals, once the merger is finalized.
The two conferences currently have a combined 20 members, with additions and subtractions soon to come. Fresno State and Nevada are set to join the Mountain West as full members, and Hawaii will join as a football only member as well. But the two conferences will also lose Boise St., San Diego St., Houston, SMU, and UCF over the next year or so, leaving them with a total of 17 members. Some potential expansion candidates could be FIU, FAU, La Tech, and UTSA among others. More to come on the situation as the information becomes available.
AROUND THE COUNTRY
"Crediting him with building not just better athletes but better men, some 12,000 people -- including Penn State students, fans and football stars -- paid tribute to Joe Paterno in a campus memorial service Thursday that exposed a strong undercurrent of anger over his firing.
In a 2½-hour gathering that capped three days of mourning on campus, Nike chairman and CEO Phil Knight brought the near-capacity crowd at the basketball arena to its feet when he defended the coach's handling of child-sex allegations leveled against a former assistant. Paterno was fired two months ago by the Penn State trustees."
"This much is clear to me: If there is a villain in this tragedy, it lies in that investigation and not in Joe Paterno's response," Knight Said
LAST BUT NOT LEAST
It's your time to decide. This week's question for the Conference USA power rankings is where does UTEP belong? The Miners were off on Wednesday, and lost a 15 point lead against Houston on Saturday to fall to 10-11 overall. The Miners have now lost two straight road games in which they had leads. So, where do they belong?