Conference USA (26-6, 15-1)
Big Wins: 1/20 at Memphis (72-67), 1/30 at UAB (74-65), 3/6 UAB (52-50)
Bad Losses: 1/3 at Texas Tech (78-86), 1/13 at Houston (65-75), 3/13 vs Houston (73-81)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2004, First Round loss to Maryland
Coach: Tony Barbee (First NCAA appearance)
Why They Can Surprise:
UTEP will not slow down the tempo, but they make it extremely difficult for the opposition to get easy buckets. That is mostly due to the imposing duo of Derrick Caracter and Arnett Moultrie under the basket. While neither are great shot blockers, they are both big guys. Caracter is 6-9 and 275 pounds and Moultrie stands at 6-11 and 225 pounds. Getting to the basket is never easy with those two hanging out in the paint. But Caracter and Moultrie are about a lot more than defense. Caracter is a double-double machine and Moultrie can almost keep up with Caracter’s numbers and averages 13.8 points and 8.0 rebounds.
The depth in the paint makes matters even worse. While Claude Britten is not known for his defense, the crafty lefty is a good scorer and is at least just as intimidating under the basket at 6-11 and 270 pounds. Jeremy Williams can fill in some minutes at the four spot when necessary and does a great job on the boards. He is also a superb athlete who is not afraid to attack the basket and has enough of an outside shot to at keep the opposition honest.
Why They Can Disappoint:
But Williams is not a good shooter and most of the team falls into the same category. Randy Culpepper is a great scorer and averages 18.0 points per game, but he is only shooting 36.9 percent from beyond the arc. Culpepper will have the ball in his hands when the team needs a big bucket, but he is much more efficient inside the arc than he is outside. Christian Polk is the best outside shooter on the team and connects on 37.5 percent of his long range attempts. If Polk’s shot is not falling, the Miners become a much easier team to defend since their outside shooting would then fall to Myron Strong or Julyan Stone and neither of those players are reliable shooters whatsoever.
Who To Watch:
Stone, however, is not on the floor for his shooting abilities, or lack there of. Stone is the man who makes this offense tick and he dishes out 5.4 assists per game. What makes Stone such an intriguing player is his 6-6 frame. He can handle the ball as well as any point guard, but his size allows him to see the floor much better than most. While he is not much of a scorer, he does a great job setting up his teammates and will use his size to provide UTEP with some much needed help on the glass.
Julyan Stone, Junior, Guard, 6.1 ppg, 5.4 apg, 5.1 rpg
Randy Culpepper, Junior, Guard, 18.0 ppg, 1.9 apg, 1.8 spg
Jeremy Williams, Junior, Forward, 10.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg
Derrick Caracter, Junior, Forward, 13.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg
Arnett Moultrie, Sophomore, Forward, 10.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg
Claude Britten, Junior, Center, 5.0 ppg, 2.2 rpg
Christian Polk, Junior, Guard, 9.6 ppg, 1.9 apg
Myron Strong, Junior, Guard, 3.2 ppg, 2.0 apg
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 75.9 (42nd in nation, 3rd in conference)
Scoring Defense: 64.1 (65, 3)
Field-Goal Percentage: 47.3 (32, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 38.8 (14, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.4 (151, 4)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.4 (106, 3)
Free-Throw Percentage: 66.6 (246, 11)
Rebound Margin: 0.6 (172, 7)
Assists Per Game: 15.1 (43, 2)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.2 (127, 5)
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