Bits and pieces of UTEP basketball’s 2015-16 non-conference portion of the schedule are slowly starting to come out, and today the Sun Bowl Association and West Star Bank announced the field for the 54th annual WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational.
UTEP will be joined this year by UC Irvine, Sam Houston State, and Norfolk State. Sam Houston State and UC Irvine will open the tournament on Monday, December 21st at 5:00 p.m., then the Miners take on Norfolk State at 7:00 p.m on the tourney’s first night.
The championship game is slated for Tuesday December 21st at 7:00 p.m., the consolation game will tip-off at 5:00 p.m. prior to the championship game.
"The Sun Bowl tournament always provides us a field that helps us prepare for the challenges of conference play," said UTEP Head Coach Tim Floyd. "This year is no exception. The three teams that will be joining us all won at least 20 games last year, and they all went on to postseason play. UC Irvine has one of the most impactful returning players in the country in Mamadou Ndiaye. He is 7’6" and has helped elevate their program to a level they have not been to since the early 80s."
All four teams head into the 2015-16 campaign following 20 or more wins and postseason appearances during the last season. In addition to last year’s success, all four featured schools boast an average of at least 20 wins over the past three years.
"This year's tournament will feature the deepest field we have had since 1999," said tournament director Barry Kobren. "Any one of the teams could win it. All four teams won over 20 games last year and went on to postseason play. They all finished second in their respective conferences and finished the season with high RPI rankings. We are looking forward to four really great basketball games."
UTEP is 80-22 all-time in the tournament, and has taken home 31 titles. UC Irvine will be making their first appearance in the event, while Sam Houston and Norfolk State will both be returning for their second trip to the nation’s oldest holiday tournament.
Other non-conference games that have been confirmed are the continuation of the home-and-home series with Washington State, UTEP travels to Pullman on Sunday December 13th.
The Miners will also host Florida A&M in the Haskins Center on November 24th which is connected to the Corpus Christi Classic according to out SB Nation partner Blogging the Bracket.
Fans can reserve their tickets for the WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational beginning Oct. 1 by calling the Sun Bowl Association office at (915-533-4416 or 800-915-BOWL). Tickets are also included in UTEP season ticket packages.