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Ultimate Miners Bracket: (7) 2010 Miners vs 2005 Miners

The two most recent Miner Tourney teams battle it out in this week's edition of UMB. This matchup is another one for the ages. Rivera, Ayala, J(ason) Will, OT, and Tofi versus Stone, RC3, J(eremy) Will, Moultrie, and Caracter. This is also the first matchup in the Ultimate Miners Bracket to not include a team coached by Don Haskins. So for the first time we can take different coaching styles into account. Who wins this matchup from the recent past? You decide.

2010 UTEP Miners
26-7 (15-1 in C-USA)

Randy Culpepper G JR 47.2 2.8 63 58 17.9
Julyan Stone G JR 43.0 5.1 180 68 6.1
Derrick Caracter C JR 56.7 8.1 30 77 14.1
Jeremy Williams F JR 49.3 4.7 28 43 10.0
Arnett Moultrie F SO 47.5 6.7 41 70 9.8
Christian Polk G JR 37.4 2.3 59 44 9.4
Claude Britten C JR 59.1 2.1 7 14 4.9
Myron Strong G JR 42.3 1.6 64 33 3.1
Gabe McCulley* G/F JR 50.0 1.0 1 2 1.8
Isaac Gordon G JR 37.8 1.2 11 14 1.8
Wayne Portalatin F/C JR 87.5 1.0 2 5


* McCulley received a medical redshirt

UTEP Miners 47.4 67.3 36.2 14.8 3.6 8.7 75.3
Opponents 39.2 66.8 35.5 11.5 2.4 5.7 64.6

One of the most memorable features of the 2010 Miners was their incredible depth, consistently giving significant minutes to 9 or 10 players. This was also an incredibly balanced team with an outstanding backcourt featuring the dynamic duo of Stone and Culpepper being joined by potent transfers Polk and Strong. The Miner front court was perhaps just as strong with the dominant Derrick Caracter in the middle and the versatile Moultrie and Williams. The statistics show the Miners had considerable advantages in field goal percentage, steals, and points per game margin.

- Split series with New Mexico State
- Lost to Ole Miss in double overtime
- Beat Oklahoma by 15 in OKC
- Lost at home to BYU
- Beat Memphis on the road, ending the Tigers' monster C-USA and home winning streaks
- Racked up 16 wins in a row against C-USA opponents
- The 2010 Miners played 7 games against eventual NCAA Tournament teams going 3-4 against them. Their 3 victories came against New Mexico State, Houston, and Arkansas Pine Bluff. Their 4 losses came to New Mexico State, BYU, and Houston twice.

After storming through Conference-USA in the regular season, the Miners were somewhat shafted by the NCAA Selection Committee. They received a 12 seed and drew eventual a Cinderella Butler Bulldogs team that would come up just a buzzer beater shy of winning the National Championship. Despite the unlucky draw, the Miners took a 6 point lead into halftime before getting blasted by the Bulldogs in the second half by a fine-tuned team on a mission. The rest of the 2010 Final Four included Champion Duke, Michigan State, and West Virginia.

2005 UTEP Miners
27-8 (14-4 in WAC)

Omar Thomas F SR 51.2 6.7 51 57 20.5
Filiberto Rivera PG SR 46.0 2.7 229 71 13.5
Jason Williams SF JR 44.9 5.7 101 85 11.5
Miguel Ayala SG JR 40.4 2.1 47 31 7.5
Giovanni St. Amant G JR 43.2 1.8 59 49 7.2
John Tofi C JR 49.0 6.3 36 38 6.7
Will Kimble C SR 54.5 3.1 5 35 4.5
Thomas Gehrke F SR 43.9 2.3 16 14 2.3
Kelvin Davis G FR 35.7 0.8 16 10 1.8
Stanley Branch F FR 31.6 1.1 3 10 1.6
Vernon Carr G FR 21.4 0.5 4 9 1.1
Brent Murphy G/F JR 26.7 0.7 9 4 0.6

UTEP Miners 46.1 79.2 34.2 16.5 2.9 7.3 74.7
Opponents 43.4 67.1 32.7 13.9 4.1 5.2 65.1

The 2005 Miners led the nation in free throw percentage and set school marks for most points and assists in a season. This team simply did not beat themselves. Some individual Miners had amazing years as well. Omar Thomas averaged over 20 points per game and led the team in rebounding too. Meanwhile Fili Rivera set the record for most assists in a single season with 229. The biggest statistical advantages for the '05 squad came in free throw percentage, assists, and steals.

- Beat Arizona State in Las Vegas Classic
- Lost to Southern Illinois in Las Vegas Classic
- Swept New Mexico State
- Lost to Texas Tech
- Lost to #19 Pacific
- Split season series with WAC rival Nevada
- Beat Hawaii, Rice, and Boise State to win the WAC Tournament in Reno
- The 2005 Miners played 6 games against eventual NCAA Tourney teams going 2-4. Their 2 victories came against Nevada and Delaware State, and their 4 losses came to Nevada, Southern Illinois, Texas Tech, and Pacific.

The 2005 Miners were given an 11 seed by the Committee and drew Andrew Bogut's Utah Utes. OT and Fili led the Miners in that game as usual scoring 35 of the Miners' 54 points. Yet the Miners had no answer for Bogut and former Aggie Justin Hawkins did a pretty good job defensively on Rivera in the second half to ensure UTEP's early exit. The Final Four in 2005 included national champ North Carolina, runner up Illinois as well as Louisville and Michigan State.

The starting lineups would look something like this in my estimation:
Stone - Rivera
Culpepper - Ayala
Williams - Williams
Moultrie - Thomas
Caracter - Tofi

The 2010 Miners look to have an advantage in terms of bench. 2005's rotation only went about 7 deep compared to 2010's 9 deep. Julyan guarding Fili would be one heck of a point guard matchup. OT, as usual, would cause huge matchup problems for 2010. Barbee could put Moultrie on him for a great length advantage, but OT seemed to excel against taller defenders. Jeremy Williams is closest to Thomas's body size, so I believe he'd probably get the matchup even though OT was much quicker. On the flip side, I think Culpepper causes similar matchup problems for 2005. Ayala wouldn't be able to guard RC3. Jason Williams might be a better option. And then of course there's the great battle in the post between John Tofi and Derrick Caracter. Both excellent players inside for very different reasons. Tofi was all about hustle and leadership. DC had so much talent and took up so much space. It's a monster matchup no matter how you break it down. I'll let you guys decide this one as usual.

(1) 1966 Texas Western Miners
(9) 1987 UTEP Miners

(5) 1992 UTEP Miners
(13) 1963 Texas Western Miners

(3) 1984 UTEP Miners
(6) 1989 UTEP Miners

(7) 2010 UTEP Miners or (10) 2005 UTEP Miners (This week's matchup)
(2) 1964 Texas Western Miners or (15) 1985 UTEP Miners