The UTEP men’s basketball team will open the 2011-12 regular season at home on Nov. 11 versus UT San Antonio – one of eight teams the Miners could potentially face in their non-conference schedule that posted 20 or more wins a year ago. UTEP will also play road games at Oregon and UNLV in year two under coach Tim Floyd.
“We have some tremendous games away from El Paso this year,” Floyd said. “Because it was difficult getting teams to play here, we made a sacrifice by going to UNLV and Oregon, knowing that we’re building this thing for the long term. We’ll have both of those teams in our place next year, which is important.”
Following a pair of exhibition tune-ups versus Eastern New Mexico (Nov. 3) and Sul Ross State (Nov. 5) in the Don Haskins Center, UTEP will face UTSA, which finished 20-14 in 2010-11, won the Southland Conference Tournament and played in the NCAA Tournament. The Roadrunners beat Alabama State in the “First Four” round of the “Big Dance,” 70-61, before falling to top seed Ohio State 75-46. UTSA returns 12 letterwinners and four starters from that squad.
“On paper UTSA appears to be stronger than the Pacific team that beat us at home in last year’s season opener,” Floyd said. “They’re going to be a real challenge for a young team.”
Following a home matchup with UC Riverside on Nov. 13, the Miners will play their first road game on Nov. 19 at NM State. The rematch between the I-10 rivals is set for Dec. 11 in El Paso.
“People tend to forget that those two ball games versus NM State are as difficult as anybody in the country,” Floyd said.
UTEP will host Stephen F. Austin (18-11, 9-7 Southland Conference last season) on Nov. 26 before facing Oregon for the first time in school history on Nov. 30 in Eugene. The Ducks are coming off a 21-18 season and CBI Championship.
The Miners will also play at UNLV on Dec. 14. The Runnin’ Rebels were 24-9 last season, earning their fourth NCAA Tournament bid in five years. UNLV welcomes back seven players who accounted for 76.5 percent of the team’s points in 2010-11, including four starters.
UTEP will play back-to-back home games versus Southern (Dec. 17) and McNeese State (Dec. 19). McNeese State won the East Division of the Southland Conference a year ago en route to securing an NIT bid and concluding the year with 21 victories.
The Miners will join the field of the prestigious Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic Dec. 22-25 in Honolulu along with Auburn (11-20 in ’10-11), Clemson (22-12), Hawaii (19-13), Kansas State (23-11), Long Beach State (22-12), Southern Illinois (13-19) and Xavier (24-8). Clemson, Kansas State and Xavier played in last year’s NCAA Tournament, and Long Beach State advanced to the NIT.
UTEP will play games in the Diamond Head Classic on Dec. 22, 23 and 25.
“The Diamond Head Classic should be a tremendous challenge for us given that we’re in the same bracket with Clemson, Xavier and Kansas State,” Floyd said.
UTEP will also participate in the Bank of the West Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational Dec. 28-29 in El Paso, with the field to be announced.
One of only 21 schools in the country to record 25 wins or more in each of the last two seasons, the Miners will have a fresh look this winter with three returning letterwinners (John Bohannon, Gabriel McCulley, Michael Perez) joining 10 newcomers. Of the newcomers, one is a Division I transfer (guard Jacques Streeter), two are junior college signees and seven are freshmen.
“The schedule is probably too much for what is probably the youngest team in the country, but we’ve told these guys that we’re going to play the best teams that we can play and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Floyd said. “We’re in the process of building a national level schedule.
“Unfortunately a lot of these games are away from home. Last year we had 21 home games, and this year we only have 17. We’d love to have 21 home games this year, but we’re trying to think long term with what we’re doing.”
The Conference USA schedule will be unveiled later this summer.
Season tickets are on sale now by calling (915) 747-6150.
2011-12 UTEP Basketball Non-Conference Schedule
Nov. 3 Eastern New Mexico (exhibition)
Nov. 5 Sul Ross State (exhibition)
Nov. 11 UT San Antonio
Nov. 13 UC Riverside
Nov. 19 at NM State
Nov. 26 Stephen F. Austin
Nov. 30 at Oregon
Dec. 11 NM State
Dec. 14 at UNLV
Dec. 17 Southern
Dec. 19 McNeese State
Dec. 22-25 at Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic (Honolulu, Hawaii)
Dec. 28-29 Bank of the West Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational