With Christmas Day rapidly approaching the nation gets its first look at UTEP forward Derrick Caracter. Of course he's already played in three games for the Miners (two double-doubles) but there will be questions regarding the Louisville transfer's level of commitment. But head coach Tony Barbee has given Caracter a ringing endorsement and if on his game he could give Oklahoma all they want and then some in Oklahoma City at the All-College Classic.
The Miners have four other players averaging double digits in scoring with the explosive Randy Culpepper leading the way at 17.4 ppg, and to be frank they should have taken care of Ole Miss last week. Arnett Moultrie is another impressive forward on the roster for UTEP, and if they can run without turning the ball over too often they've got a good chance to knock off the Sooners. The key for Jeff Capel's team will be leadership, specifically from guards Willie Warren and Tony Crocker.
They can definitely fill it up but on a team that starts freshmen at both the point (Tommy Mason-Griffin) and on the block (Tiny Gallon) being the on-court voice of reason can at times be just as important as scoring. Oklahoma is allowing opponents to score seventy points per game while the Miners allow their opponents to score just over sixty-five per contest. Expect the margins in both turnovers and rebounds to be the deciding factor as both teams have the ability to score points.
As for the other games on the schedule the final of the Aeropostale Holiday Festival should be a competitive affair between Cornell and St. John's at the Garden. Cornell needed a 30-footer at the buzzer from Ryan Wittman to knock off Davidson while the Red Storm needed a late second half run to survive Hofstra. Also, Oklahoma State takes on La Salle in the second game from Oklahoma City with two of the better guards in the country (La Salle's Rodney Green and Oklahoma State's James Anderson) on display.
6:30p ESPN2 UTEP vs. Oklahoma
7p ESPNU Drexel at Kentucky
7p MSG Davidson vs. Hofstra
8:30p ESPN2 LaSalle vs. Oklahoma State
8:30p BTN South Carolina St at Iowa
9p MSG Cornell at St. John's
9p FCS Lipscomb at Arizona
7p Furman at South Carolina
7:30p Weber St. at Cal-State Fullerton
8p Appalachian St. at Dayton
9:05p Fresno St. at Montana
10p Pacific at Santa Clara
UTEP over Oklahoma: The play of Culpepper and Moultrie is the primary reason why UTEP is the pick. Overall the Miners have more experience and if this turns into a track meet they can run without getting completely out of control. Look for UTEP to pull off the mild upset.