Radio: In El Paso, KHRO 1150 AM (David Saltzman (Play-by-Play), Steve Yellen (Color)
Vegas Says: Colorado State -4.5, O/U 152
UTEP looks for their first in-season tournament title outside of El Paso since 1984 against a very talented front line from Larry Eustachy's Colorado State Rams.
Six Rams average double figure scoring numbers through five games, led by the defensive minded Gian Clavell.
Clavell, a former UTEP target on the recruiting trail, averages 18.8 points per game, and made four three pointers in a row last night against Portland. As good as a scorer Clavell can be, his strength is on the defensive end with his 6'7 or 6'8 wingspan.
The Rams may have one of the top back courts in the Mountain West, and certainly have the best point guard in the MWC with junior John Gillon calling the shots.
Gillon has 27 assists with only eight turnovers, also averaging 14.4 points per game, and has shot 32-of-34 from the free throw line this season.
Along with the uber athletic 6'6 Joe De Ciman who averages 12.8 points per game, Colorado State's big three can take over a game, as well as helping the Rams reach 90-points or more in their last three games.
While they don't have elite size, 6'7 forwards Tiel Daniels, and Emmanuel Omogbo are versatile, and athletic forwards who thrive on pick-and-roll feeds with the ability to finish and get to the free throw line.
6'2 guard Antwan Scott will be the first guard off the bench and is averaging 16 points per game, shooting 15-of-30 from three point land.
Colorado State's weakness maybe the lack of depth behind their first six, and the fact that they allow 83.2 points per game. But their guard play and ability to put up points with a gallery of shot, and play makers labels them as a legit Mountain West contender.
UTEP's biggest challenge will be slowing down the pick-and-roll, and guarding out on the perimeter. Colorado State utilizes the pick-and-roll very efficiently with Daniels, Omogbo, and Kimani Jackson off the bench.
Keeping Terry Winn, and Hooper Vint out of foul trouble will key in UTEP keeping themselves at bay.
Speaking of Winn, and Vint, what a performance from those two in UTEP's win against Southern Illinois. Without those efforts, UTEP is playing for third place today.
Dominic Artis, and Lee Moore had something of an "off night", but still affected the game in other areas. Moore got his scoring going in the second half, while Artis was held in check due to cheap foul trouble.
Moore had five assists at halftime against SIU despite shooting 1-for-5 from the field in the first half.
The concern was UTEP's play and depth in the front court, but it became a strength and something UTEP can hang their hat on along with strong guard play.
The best matchup to watch will be John Gillon versus Dominic Artis.
Both are efficient in the open floor, and their team relies on both to get them into offense, and make plays for others.
UTEP will certainly have their hands full against an athletic rotation of six elite players from the Mountain West.
Does this UTEP team come together full circle in what could end up being the most important game in the out-of-conference schedule and prove they are legit themselves?