UTEP will take part in the 2015 National Invitational Tournament set to start this Tuesday. The Miners were selected as a 6 seed, and will take on Murray State, who won the Ohio Valley Conference regular season title.
The Miners seemed to be on thin ice late in the afternoon following the NCAA tournament selections, but it was clear the NIT committee felt fairly good about the strength of Conference USA, fielding three teams including Old Dominion as a 1 seed and Louisiana Tech as a 3.
"It's a nice tribute to our players and the fact they did some good things this year," UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. "We prefer to be at home, but things don't always work out the way you want them to. By all accounts Murray has a terrific team that won 25 games in a row, and I don't think that three quarters of the teams in the NCAA field could accomplish that feat. We know it will be very difficult, but we're glad that we have an opportunity to watch our seniors play another game.
Murray State finished the regular season 27-5 and 16-0 in conference play. Their uptempo style will certainly pose a huge challenge for the defensive minded Miners, but this one could be a good one.
The Racers are playing some great basketball and have lost just once since late November. They took a 25 game win streak into the Ohio Valley Conference championship game, and only saw it end on a last second three by Belmont.
Julian Washburn will have his hands full with the likes of Cameron Payne, a sophomore guard who enters as one of the nation's top scorers. He has recorded three games of 30+ points on the season, and has scored 20+ points 21 times.
It will certainly be a clash of styles, and a matchup of two very different teams. Not only do the Racers score a ton (11th nationally), they're also a very good rebounding team, and they've got plenty of offensive threats to worry about.
That said, the Miners will have their opportunities, as Murray State isn't a very good defensive team, doesn't have a great interior presence, and doesn't have a very deep bench.
Should be an interesting one to watch, and whoever is able to control tempo and play to their strengths will come away with the win. Tuesday's contest against Murray State will take place in Murray, KY at 7:00 p.m. MT, and will be carried live by ESPN2
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