#104 UTEP Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

UTEP Miners

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #104
Conference Rank: #5 C-USA

UTEP Team Page#104 UTEP Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy UTEP Basketball Tickets

UTEP and Coach Tim Floyd have some rebuilding to do after a season in which they won 22 games and reached the NIT. The Miners finished tied for second with a 13-5 record in the underappreciated Conference USA. That is something to build on. However, there are a lot of pieces to replace. Coach Floyd keeps bringing in more talent than the rest of the conference, but this year the Miners have a young team and pure talent alone may not be enough to compete for a conference crown.

2014-15 Record: 22-11, 13-5
2014-15 Postseason: NIT
Coach: Tim Floyd
Coach Record: 93-62 at UTEP, 412-229 overall

Who’s Out:
Vince Hunter left school early and that leaves a huge hole in the UTEP frontcourt. As a sophomore last season, Hunter averaged a team high 14.9 points and 9.2 rebounds. He was an efficient scorer in the paint and a decent all-around defender too. Losing Hunter hurts, but it hurts even more because Cedrick Lang and Julian Washburn ran out of eligibility. Lang, a 6-10 forward, was third on the team in scoring with 10.3 points per game and second in rebounding with 6.7 per contest. Washburn, a big 6-8 wing, was another double-digit scorer and added size to the wing. The big loss on the perimeter is C.J. Cooper. He was a quality shooter and ran a pretty efficient offense, dishing out 3.2 assists per game and turning the ball over just 1.3 times. Little used Lew Stallworth is the only other departure.

Who’s In:
Eight newcomers could suit up for the Miners this year and Coach Floyd needs quite a few of them to be ready to play from day one. The most obvious early contributors are the two with some DI experience. Dominic Artis spent a couple years at Oregon, most recently averaging 4.1 points and 2.2 assists during the Ducks Sweet 16 season in 2013-2014. Artis spent last year not playing basketball at a junior college to get his academics in order following his dismissal from Oregon. Off court issues aside, Artis fills a huge need at the point for UTEP. The backcourt also adds junior college transfer Lee Moore. Moore is a combo guard, but is better suited off the ball. But this team may need him to spend some time at the point. Freshmen Tedric Johnson and Josh McSwiggan, along with redshirt freshman Trey Touchet will add options on the wing. The frontcourt needs bodies and UTEP hopes Terry Winn, Paul Thomas and Christian Romine can be productive too. Thomas, a 6-8, 200 pound true freshman, will need to be as tough on the glass as advertised with the loss of Hunter and Lang. He is a great athlete who plays above the rim and could be starting from day one. Romine is a bigger 6-9, 220 pound center with a lot of potential.  

Who to Watch:
There are only four returning players with any real experience. In the frontcourt, centers Matt Willms and Hooper Vint do give UTEP plenty of size. Willms, a 7-1 junior, averaged 5.2 points and 4.3 rebounds last season. He has been a part-time starter for two years now and Willms is ready to take on a bigger role. Vint, a 6-11 senior, averaged just 12.1 minutes per game in 2014-2015, yet should be capable of playing 18 to 20 minutes off of the bench. Earvin Morris and Omega Harris are the new leaders on the perimeter. Morris was second on the team with 11.0 points per game during his first season with the Miners after spending time in the junior college ranks. Morris knocked down 40.1 percent of his team high 137 three-point attempts and proved to be effective attacking the basket as well. Without Hunter, Lang and Washburn opening up the three-point arc though, Morris may find it tougher to get open looks from outside this year. Harris is another capable shooter who can also attack the basket. Morris and Harris are both ready to pick up the scoring slack and turn the focus of UTEP from the frontcourt to the backcourt.

Final Projection:
There are plenty of questions for UTEP to answer, but their recruiting class should answer most of those issues sooner or later. They got a player in Artis who can handle the ball. They got some big bodies who can rebound with Thomas and Romine. And they got some scorers off the bench with Moore and Touchet. It may be asking too much for the Miners to seriously compete for a conference title, but the talent is there. If all those talented pieces can play better as a team than the 2014-2015 version of the Miners, maybe this is a team that can surprise a few people along the way.

Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI/CIT

Projected Starting Five:
Dominic Artis, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Omega Harris, Sophomore, Guard, 6.7 points per game
Earvin Morris, Senior, Guard, 11.0 points per game
Paul Thomas, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Matt Willms, Junior, Center, 5.2 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 69.2 (122nd in nation, 5th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 63.8 (98, 3)
Field-Goal Percentage: 46.6 (43, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 41.5 (101, 3)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.6 (244, 12)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.6 (78, 2)
Free-Throw Percentage: 66.1 (274, 8)
Rebound Margin: 1.0 (151, 7)
Assists Per Game: 13.7 (87, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.3 (153, 3)


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