With nine of the top ten contributors returning from last year's exciting 23 win squad, UTEP returns to the floor as practice officially opens Monday afternoon for the highly anticipated 2014-15 campaign.
Most publications already have, or will have the Miners sitting near the top of the Conference USA, and a top mid-major contender.
Tim Floyd enters enters his fifth year at UTEP with an anxious fan base who is NCAA tourney hungry.
With the new pieces at guard, mixed with proven veteran leaders CTF is going to let practice, and the early season on floor play dictate who will standout and become factors in the rotation this season.
"I think it's way too early to talk about those things until we get three, four weeks into practice and maybe until we've played a few games, The young guys are going to have nerves even when they're playing early on. We've got to find out who will work hard consistently, which is the biggest adjustment the freshmen have to make. As far as our older guys, we pretty much know who they are. We're hoping for improvement from every guy, not just one or two. That's what you should expect as they have been in the program one more year."
The Miners have been gathering almost everyday over the summer for open gym in the afternoons, and working on their own time to improve and gain chemistry, showing this team is embracing the grind needed to get that next level the Miners have been knocking on the door about the past couple of seasons.
"We have an eager group and we have a veteran group mixed with some youth that has made things more competitive, We've got a group that likes basketball. We know that much. They live in the gym and they work on their games individually when the coaches aren't there. I think that's the important thing. We feel like we've improved ourselves."
This is an important time of year for the young guards who will be the keys to the NCAA Tournament or bust bus this season.
UTEP has the depth at guard to fill that missing production from last year, though someone is going to have to show the coaches what they are looking for in the early time period CTF has set for his overall evaluations.
But of course defense is the identity that lead UTEP to 23 wins, so whoever can get inside their man the most will probably see the most playing time out of the freshman group.
"I think we were sixth in the nation last year in defensive field goal percentage, so that formula seems to be working. We have some offensive concepts in place -- certainly not our offense in its entirety -- and it gives us an opportunity to start building team through hard work on the defensive end and defensive rebounding, where we hope to improve from where we were a year ago."
Under the NCAA legislation the Miners coaching staff was allowed two hours a week of work with the players during the summer, and according to Floyd some positive direction was guided in their minimal time to get guys ready for the grind of October camp.
"You've got two hours a week. All you're doing is basically teaching your guys how to work, because you're not going to get a team defense or offense in with two hours a week. I think it allows us to have a presence, which is the most important thing, and let our guys keep an eye on where they're headed in October, which is when it really all starts."
We all know what we are getting and what to expect out of the veteran guys, but what improvements do yall want to see from the returnees?
The Miners return 81 percent of points scored a year ago, 75 percent of the rebounding numbers, and 79 percent of the assists from last season.
With so much positive production, and the duo of Julian Washburn, and Vince Hunter back, the biggest question us Miner fans should have over the final month of the pre-season is why not us?
I'll bring you a report from practice, with some interviews from Floyd and the players on Monday.
UPDATED: Check out the Black Unis!!!!