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Tough upcoming stretch will forecast UTEP’s C-USA tourney hopes

Miner Illustrated

A season isn’t over until it’s over but......

UTEP’s next five game stretch could decide the Miners fate in making the C-USA tournament with a respectable seed, or force them to watch the tourney from their dorms.

Saturday’s road trip with UTSA starts a stretch of five games featuring four teams from inside the top 5 in the current standings. UTEP is currently a shaky 2-4 in the C-USA ranks after last beating FIU.

And oh yeah….UTSA has some really good freshman and isn’t an easy W anymore either.

After UTEP’s one hour flight to the 210 to face UTSA tomorrow, UTEP will hit the road for the daunting UAB-Middle Tennessee swing next week where teams are usually humbled by two of C-USA’s most prominent programs.

Both UAB and Middle Tennessee have a chance to win the C-USA tourney with elite frontlines and experience. A major let down and upset at the hands of UTEP is unlikely for both teams.

Then UTEP returns home on Thursday February 1st to face red-hot WKU who keeps getting better and better after gaining some really solid players who had been out with eligibility issues, then offensive juggernaut Marshall cruises into the Don Saturday February 3rd.

Like I mentioned, UTEP’s season doesn’t end until March. Although there is a list of “lacks” Phil Johnson still hasn’t figured out at this critical point of the regular season, and could enter the danger zone of a second consecutive losing season after this rough stretch.

Lack of frontcourt depth due to Tirus Smith’s unfortunate injury, UTEP’s lack of second half defensive want-to, lack of consistent rebounding efforts, and lack the lack of on floor leadership have the Miners teetering on disaster as they approach an important five stretch near the halfway point of conference play.

As for the positives of late:

  • Isiah Osborne is starting become a major offensive factor.
  • Evan Gilyard is also becoming an offensive factor, and had his best two game stretch in his young career last week. He also plays really hard every time out, and surely leads UTEP in diving on the floor for loose balls.
  • Kobe Magee during C-USA play has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 18:6 and is shooting 68 percent (13-for-19) from long distance.

What do these positive say?

UTEP will have to rely on their guards for production, and might have to outscore folks (ala the Lee Moore team from two seasons ago) down the stretch of the season due to the poor defensive efforts UTEP seems to fall into during the final 20 minutes of games.

The most important part of a C-USA team’s season is the conference tourney, but the Miners have one hell of a task over the next two weeks to position themselves to birth a simple seed at Jerry’s mini-world come early March.

Like Tim Floyd says, boys win at home, men win on the road, let’s see if the Miners have what it takes to bounce back.