The FIU Breakdown
FIU was the least talked about surging squad in the league before they dropped a 66-60 contest last Saturday at home against Southern Miss.
Boasting a top front court duo in C-USA with Daviyon Draper and Adrian Diaz will be problematic for UTEP to matchup with.
The 6'7 Draper has scored in double figures in 20 of his last 24 games dating back to last season, and is in a streak of six straight double figure scoring games.
The biggest matchup problem will be All-Conference center Adrian Diaz.
Coming into their weekend Texas road trip, Diaz led all D-1 players in blocked shots, and has shot higher than 66 percent from the field in six out of FIU's last eight games from around the rim.
As always, UTEP will try to execute their 60X2 defensive principles, but FIU has three capable scorers to worry about with Diaz, Draper, and Donte McGill.
Donte McGill leads FIU averaging 17 points per game, and has averaged 23 points in his last four games.
McGill has scored in double figures in 14 straight games, and has made at least eight field goals in his three outings.
Defending the perimeter will be another point of emphasis on the UTEP scouting report as FIU boasts a balanced three point shooting attack.
McGill spearheads a long distance by-committee attack that has hit eight or more three point shots seven times this season. McGill shoots 40 percent from three point land, while Elmo Stephen is a high volume shooter who went 6-of-10 from deep against Florida A&M earlier this year.
The FIU matchup poises threats UTEP has struggled with on the defensive end this year in rebounding, guarding the perimeter, and keeping physical 6'7 or taller forwards in check.
While the Panthers have struggled from the free throw line, they have been better as of late, but the hack-a-Panther theme could be a back pocket trick for Tim Floyd if it's needed.
FIU has won six out of their last eight, and will certainly jeopardize UTEP's 11 game C-USA home win streak that dates back to last season.
Adrian Diaz is good, really good.
Like possibly an NBA undrafted free agent who gets legit looks in the summer league good.
Diaz has swatted away three or more shots in 12 of 19 games this season, and 27 times in his 52 game FIU career.
Keeping Diaz off the boards will be the job of Hooper Vint's, but taking smart shots to keep him totally off the boards will be the most important theme.
Diaz had his second-highest rebounding total of 15 boards against FAU with six of those 15 rebounds coming on the offensive glass. His season high for rebounds is 18, and he's been pretty good from the free throw as of late with a 16-of-21 mark in his last three games.
He found himself in early foul trouble against UTSA, can a guy like Hooper Vint continue his strong stretch against one of the top centers in the league?
Looking at the guard matchups
UTEP has the advantage depth wise, but keeping McGill in check and below his average will be a challenge.
It will be interesting to see UTEP's plan of attack against FIU, you figure McGill will be face guarded, and FIU will be looking to pound the paint.
Stephen is a 6'7 forward who will more than likely draw Earvin Morris as both figure to come off the bench, but the Miners guards will have the clear advantage if UTEP's guard play is strong.
Omega Harris had a tremendous start to Thursday's game, while Lee Moore and Dominic Artis were productive in other areas other than scoring. The little things gives UTEP a chance to win, something all three and Earvin Morris showed on Thursday.
UTEP has the edge in back court, but has the consistency corner been turned with just one impressive performance from Thursday?
Who has the edge?
Shots have to fall, the boards have to be wiped clean, and UTEP's turnover percentage has to be lower than 20 percent to offset the matchup problems FIU will cause.
This matchup could come down to free throws, and defensive stops, can the Miners come up with enough of both?
Miner Rush's Opening Line: UTEP -2