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2014 Wooden Legacy: UTEP vs Princeton Preview

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UTEP battles "the offense" in the first leg of the Wooden Legacy.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Princeton, and UTEP's rich basketball histories go back to the sixties when both appeared in back-to-back Final Fours in 1965, and of course: 1966.

Both will kick off the 2014 Wooden Legacy Classic in Fullerton, California tomorrow.

UTEP is 2-0 coming off an emotional second half triumphant win against NMSU, while Princeton limps in at 1-3 with their latest loss coming at the hands of a common opponent: Incarnate Word who UTEP will see in early December.

For the Tigers, they return last season's leading scorer Hans Brase who through their first four games has posted a 17 point effort, and 14 rebound night in separate outings this season.  Brase averages 14 points, and 10 rebounds per game, and his hit 12 three pointers this season.

As pristine, and beautiful the Princeton offense is and can be, this Tiger team has been turnover prone.

Princeton has turned it over 55 times, while they have forced their opponents into 42 turnovers.

Two of their guards and main ball handlers Ben Hazel, and Spencer Weisz have combined for 25 of those turnovers this season.

Weisz was named 2014 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, and leads the Tigers in scoring this year with a 17.3 per game average, while also matching his career high of 22 points twice already this season.

Keys for the Miners on defense will be shutting down and taking out Weiz and Brase who make up almost 50 percent of their total points scored this year.  Also important will be bringing enough pressure to force mistakes that will lead to fast break opportunities.

The Miners will have to defend the cutting or diving player aggressively and smartly, while forcing someone else other than Brase and Weiz to make shots and plays.  That is UTEP's identity on defense, but a huge test either way against a patient offensive scheme.

I also feel the defensive game plan isn't solely about just protecting the paint.

UTEP's guards will have a stiff challenge in guarding the actions out on the perimeter that come with the Princeton offense, but also defending five different shooters who have attempted more than ten looks from deep this season.

Princeton has averaged 22 three point attempts a game this year, and I feel that is something that can help them hang around, or jump them out to an early lead if they are falling.

UTEP should also have no problem improving their 4.5 rebounding margin no matter what lineup is out there, though finding an offensive identity should be the biggest key to whole entire tournament.

Princeton has shown trouble in guarding the perimeter, and we all know UTEP does not rely on the trifecta but it would be nice for guys like C.J. Cooper, Earvin Morris, or Omega Harris to get going from out there.

Though first UTEP will try to establish their will in the paint, and with the way Vince Hunter has played UTEP should have no trouble in getting to the rim as they did against NMSU.  The thing is to finish there early and more efficiently.

Cedrick Lang was a quiet X-Factor in the NMSU win, and that needed confidence from a 15 point, 7 rebound game will surely continue the rest of the season and will be a huge key in UTEP's overall success this season. .  How many Cedrick Lang types are there in college basketball today?

I get the feeling that game in and game out UTEP will be living at the free throw line, so converting those against a Princeton team who I feel can't really match up athletically with UTEP will be key in stretching leads, and keeping runs going.

Expect more lineup mix ups, and rotations as Tim Floyd is still trying to figure out certain lineup match ups that they can use in certain situations later in the year.

Main thing to watch is the offensive chemistry UTEP is looking for within those lineups.

At times Lew Stallworth has got the offense going, and we saw how Omega Harris got the offense going down the second half come back stretch against the Aggies with big plays.

Now its about bringing all those parts together at a consistent level or pace to gain more votes, and national love in a huge spotlight of a tournament.