How will Matt Willms hold up?
Main point: UTEP desperately needs a healthy Matt Willms for an entire season.
Willms, coming off major foot surgery is UTEP's most experienced returning big man, and according to sources has looked good in terms of overall athletic movement since rehabbing and being cleared for pick-up basketball late in August.
He's never been a double-double type producer in his career to this point, but provides a major defensive presence, and alters more shots than he's given credit for in the stat sheet.
With a raw, and inexperienced Kelvin Jones behind him. An effective Matt Willms makes this UTEP team just a little better defensively, and overall.
A fully healthy Matt Willms could produce more consistently on the boards, and could also give UTEP a solid inside scoring option once conference play rolls around.
You definitely gotta feel for Willms as a person after missing the game he loves for a full year due to something out of his control, but the big question is can he stay 100% for the entire season.
Outside of Willms, Terry Winn, Omega Harris, and Dominic Artis, who else will step up and produce?
We pretty much know what we're getting from UTEP's four most experienced returners, but outside of them, unknowns run a-plenty.
Isiah Osborne is the obvious answer, but his eligibility questions still have not been answered with practice starting today. And going off past experiences, it's almostsafe to count him out at this point.
Paul Thomas could be another name to watch with the increased minutes he will see this season, and the glimpses of production he provided a handful of times last season.
The two players I'm looking at to make the biggest production jumps are Jake Flaggert and Trey Touchet.
A few pictures have circulated showing Flaggert's major gains in the muscle definition in his arms, and in the recent team picture he looks to be in the best physical shape he's been in since he's been here at UTEP.
Flaggert drew 18 charges last season, and could be asked to be the perimeter glue guy UTEP needs to emerge, and of course his three-point shot improved last year, but consistency with his shot is the next step.
Touchet, had a handful of "I didn't know he could do that moments" last year and will be desperately needed to score off the bench when he spells DA, or Omega.
UTEP really, really, really needs consistent scoring off the bench this season, Thomas, Flaggert, and Touchet could provide the most immediate solution to this major need.
Will the Miners defense and rebounding marks improve?
UTEP finished last season season with a -3 rebounding margin, and teams shot 47 percent on their two-point field goal attempts.
The Miners did average six steals per game last season, which was a slight improvement from two seasons ago. But closing out defensive possessions with rebounds leading to open court chances, and keeping teams from easily driving the lane are issues that will certainly be points of emphasis in the coming practices.
The hope is the rotation of Willms and Kelvin Jones in the middle can help offset those issues, and clear up UTEP's lack of size identity.
UTEP played more zone under Tim Floyd last season than ever before.
How this UTEP team plans to defend scheme wise is another major question Floyd & Co. will be figuring out over the next month before the lights turn on for real.
Which freshman emerges?
For the first time in a while, Tim Floyd brought in an unheralded recruiting class with "under the radar" talent filling up UTEP's class of 2016.
The obvious two choices for a breakout freshman is in UTEP's backcourt.
Adrian Moore and Deon Barrett figure to fight for significant minutes in preseason practices.
Barrett brings winning experience and a deadly three-point shot, while Moore could bring scoring, athleticism, and another efficient open floor finisher.
Kelvin Jones may not emerge on the stat sheet in his first year, but cleaning the boards, and protecting the lane could be the first step in a Cedrick Lang type ascension as his offensive game grows.
Tim Cameron is another solid athlete who can certainly "athlete" at the D-1 level, but finding a basketball producing role is a little more difficult to tell without fully seeing Cameron play as of yet.
And if recent history with Tim Floyd and freshman tell us anything, one, two, or maybe even three of these guys red-shirt and won't see the floor this season.
No matter who emerges, UTEP will need one of their freshman to provide some major production in at least one stat category to climb back into the C-USA contender role.
Is this Tim Floyd's make or break year, finally?
Ah yes, it's been talked about on the comment threads on this website, social media, and on numerous UTEP message boards. Now, it’s finally going to be a published opinion by someone who regularly covers UTEP hoops.
Tim Floyd needs to win this year, or leave.
Some will argue he should have been canned last season, but the fact of the matter is we all know Floyd will leave when he's ready or tired of the short comings, and the hammer will never be brought down by Bob Stull.
Multiple transfers or departures of key players, unprofessional/embarrassing public spats with coaches, media members, and lack of on court results has attendance threatening to be its lowest in the 2000's era of UTEP basketball.
Throw in bad, bad losses to schools like UTSA, FAU, New Orleans over the years, and being physically manhandled by NMSU twice a year isn't what I would call bringing back the glory that was promised when Floyd was hired.
Now he's had some bad luck with a few situations, but that does not excuse the fact that the program has stooped to new lows not only on the court, but in the eye of public opinion due to the actions of the head coach.
Winning cures all, and while some feel it's way too late, Floyd will get a shot this year to prove me, and everyone doubting the direction of the program wrong.