When it comes to UTSA basketball, to Miner fans there are plenty unknowns, but both athletic programs are billing the conference showdowns as the Lone Star Rivalry, well at least UTEP is.
We got together with Jared Kalmus from Cooler Chronicles to get a look at what to expect in Saturday's double header, and also a look into the happenings with Larry Coker and the football squad so far this off-season.
Great stuff as always from the Cooler guys, Enjoy!
MinerRush: What is the current state of UTSA hoops, and what was life before the move to C-USA for Miner fans who dont know much about the program?
Jared Kulmus: Tough question to answer. This season has been a bit of a puzzle for UTSA. The team started off the season in total disarray, dropping contests against McMurry and UTPA. As the season has progressed, the team has certainly improved, so far as to upset Charlotte (a team that took down Michigan earlier in the season). Where the Roadrunners have excelled in their rapid movement up the totem pole on the football field, the basketball program has really struggled to attract true C-USA level talent. While UTSA has never been a true mid-major force, the school has enjoyed a few conference championships since the program started in the 1980s. The basketball program's antiquated facilities is certainly holding it back but fundraising has taken a back seat to football.
MR: With the injuries that have took place this year involving guys who were expected to make impacts, how has that benefited or hurt the Runners?
JK: Losing Jeromie Hill and Larry Lewis killed any hopes UTSA had of being a CUSA contender. Hyjii Thomas and Kaj Sherman have also struggled with injuries throughout the season. This has lead to a ton of minutes for walk-on Devon Agusi and freshman Phillip Jones. Sophomore transfer James Williams has also seen his minutes increase as his length on the perimeter has helped him to earn a starting spot in the last five games. This increased experience for Williams and Jones should pay dividends next season.
MR: Senior Devon Agusi had a nice stretch of games recently for you guys, but who else is a major contributer for UTSA?
JK: In the back court, combo guard Keon Lewis has been very effective at getting to the basket though his number of minutes have been at a steady decline throughout the season. One of the high points of the season has been the emergence of freshman Phillip Jones. The burly forward was one of UTSA's best recruiting pick ups ever, as Phillip's scholarship offer from MTSU was pulled at the last minute, causing him to sign with UTSA. Jones has opened eyes with his acrobatics and athleticism. He still has a ways to go before being a top player in CUSA but his ceiling is high. Center / Power Forward Edrico McGregor has also been a constant for the Roadrunners this season.
MR: Before the Middle Tennessee game, the Runners were averaging 80 points per game in C-USA play, what style does Brooks Thompson play, and what do see him trying to emphasize against the defensive minded Miners?
JK: Brooks' teams like to play a zone defense and utilize the duration of the shot clock in halfcourt offense. The Roadrunners, ironically, rarely push the ball up the court with a high tempo. UTSA's high scoring totals lately have come on the back of effective shooting and capitalizing on turnovers.
MR:What is the key for a UTSA victory on Saturday?
JK: Keeping Phillip Jones and Edrico McGregor out of foul trouble is huge. The defense takes a big hit with those two off the court. Since UTSA will have few athletic advantages on the court, they will need to move the ball effectively to open up the offense. Jordan Sims has not been hitting from downtown lately so getting him to knock down some threes and get back in rhythm should be a focus.
MR: Switching it up to some women's action. Whats your take on the Lady Runners and Miners matinee in San Antone Saturday?
JK: I believe the Lady Runners will get better in every game this season and will raise some noise in the conference tournament. Volleyball All-American McKenzie Adams has joined the basketball team and has started to come into her own as a scoring threat. Freshman Tesha Smith has tremendous potential and may develop into a force in the conference. I predict this game to be a tight contest that will hopefully set the tone for another close game between the Miners and Roadrunners.
MR: UTSA has a very active, and passionate football fan base, how does this translate to the hardwood?
JK: Not at all. UTSA is currently dwelling in the cellar of CUSA attendance with less than 800 fans attending each game in average. Already a football school haha.
MR: On some football notes, how is Larry Coker's 2014 class looking from what you have seen/heard?
JK: The staff was in a tough spot with so few available scholarships to work with in this class but they have done a really good job of making each of the 14 expected available scholarships count. The class took a hit with safety Travin Howard flipping to TCU this week but it looks like the staff should be able to wrap the class up strongly as Daniel Gresham, the top-rated fullback in the nation, is currently on campus for a visit. The Roadrunners will need to land one more offensive tackle, defensive end, and a safety before National Signing Day.
MR: In my opinion, the biggest question mark for next season is at quarterback after Eric Soza's fine career, who we at the Rush have a lot of respect for. Who should be the guy come the fall, and is UTSA only going to have two QB's on the roster during spring drills?
JK: The quarterback positon went from a strength to a major concern very quickly after Sophomore Zach Conque transferred to SFA to play with his father. This means that Senior Tucker Carter will definitely be the 2014 starter. The only other quarterback currently on the roster is redshirt freshman Austin Robinson. UTSA landed a pretty solid quarterback and state champion in the 2014 class with Blake Bogenschutz. Due to a lack of depth Blake may be thrown into the fire quickly if Carter were to sustain an injury. UTSA is also expected to attract several preferred walk ons at quarterback, though a JUCO transfer doesn't seem to be on the picture. I can't imagine that the staff will work through the spring with just two quarterbacks so we may be in for a surprise.