UTEP’s ‘real’ season opener and first real test of the 2017-18 season tips off Thursday afternoon as UTEP opens the Puertro Rico Tip Off against a legit Boise State team.
The Broncos have started 2-0 with a pair of wins against nobodies, but have put up some really impressive offensive numbers in first two games of the season.
Boise routed Eastern Oregon on Friday (104-65) and Southern Utah on Sunday (90-69) to open the season. They were picked third in the Mountain West, and have been to the NCAA Tournament twice under eighth-year head coach Leon Rice.
Four Broncos are averaging double figures in scoring through two games -- sophomore guard Alex Hobbs (20.0 ppg), sophomore guard Justinian Jessup (18.5 ppg), senior forward Chris Sengfelder (14.5 ppg) and senior guard Chandler Hutchison (13.5 ppg). Hutchison also averages a team-leading 7.0 rpg and 5.5 apg.
Boise presents tons of versatility on offense which will test this UTEP team trying to find their way early on.
“We see a team that’s extremely well-coached,” Floyd said. “They get back well defensively. Some of the transition baskets that we have been getting, I doubt will be provided because of their ability to get back. They are explosive in the offensive transition and I think that’s where they’re really dangerous. It appears to me that they really feed off these eight, 12, 14-point runs that are geared by efficiency in terms of effort, bigs running the floor to get back and being able to contain terrific guard play. The Hobbs kid is a real surprise to a lot of people early in the season. The kid named Hutchison was the preseason pick for Player of the Year in the Mountain West Conference. Jessup just wears it out, he can really shoot it. And I think they’re better than they were last year based on what I’ve seen on film, just because of the addition of the big German Sengfelder who has taken 15 of his 21 shots from three. So that’s a different kind of cover for us. It’s a good basketball team.”
UTEP also opened their season against a “nobody“ and saw some much needed production as well.
This UTEP team seems like they have legit guard depth, and a legit all-conference center in Matt Willms, but the level of competition will rise and can the Miners raise their game early will be a big question.
Tim Floyd thinks over the next few weeks UTEP will be tested in a tough way.
“If you look at our schedule over the next seven or eight games, I’m not sure anybody in the country is going to play one tougher,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “We get back from this tournament and we’re at New Mexico State, we play a Lamar team that just won at Tulsa, then we’ve got New Mexico State again, we’ve got New Mexico coming in and we’ve got Washington State coming in. That’s why this game is important. We’re going to learn to play against quality teams and we’re going to do it on a neutral floor.”
UTEP will face either Illinois State or South Carolina in the next round, and the most important aspect is wins and figuring out effective rotations for the long haul of the season.
“What we’d like to get out of it is as many wins as we can, obviously,” Floyd said. “That’s the whole nature of what we do and that’s the essence of what we try to do, is try to win. At this point, we might shorten our rotation somewhat. We have been able to play a lot of guys and that was by design. But you get in one and two-point games, how much can you draw from a freshman in those situations? We’re going to try to put them in tight game situations and practice between now and the time we play [Boise State].”
How to watch
UTEP vs. Boise State
12 pm Mountain Time Thursday
Streaming: WATCH ESPN