It’s that time of year once again, conference play tips off tonight and instead of a trip to the Northeast to face an A10 team the Charlotte 49ers travel to El Paso, Texas to face the Miners of UTEP. The game will tip at 9:05 PM ET and can be seen on CBS Sports Network. Here are three things you need to know before tipoff:
-Obviously the news of the week was the dismissal of three UTEP guards for accusations of gambling. The biggest blow of the three is the loss of UTEP’s point guard, and leading scorer, McKenzie Moore (13.1 PPG 2.7 APG) but the dismissals have left the Miners extremely thin in the backcourt. Look for Junior guard CJ Cooper (7.5 PPG 2.3 APG) to play the point as there isn’t really another option. You can read more about this situation here.
-Former NBA and USC coach Tim Floyd is the head coach for the Miners. Floyd is in his fourth season in El Paso and has accumulated a 68-46 record with a trip to the NIT after his first season in 2010-2011.
-UTEP boasts one of the conference’s best frontcourts with the likes of Julian Washburn (11.2 PPG 4.1 RPG), Vince Hunter (10.5 PPG 6.7 RPG) and John Bohannon (9.9 PPG 8.1 RPG). This group will now have to burden the load more than ever but they will also have to play smart and avoid foul trouble as there isn’t a lot of options off the bench.
Bonus Points: This marks the first time these two teams have faced each other as conference foes. In their most recent matchup Charlotte defeated UTEP 86-58 in 2001…UTEP is the only Conference USA school to have ever won a men’s basketball NCAA National Championship; they won the 1966 title when they were then known as Texas Western University.