EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) – What is bound to be perhaps the strangest college basketball season in the history of the sport will officially get underway on Wednesday around the country.
COVID-19 has already canceled or postponed dozens of games, but in the Borderland, the UTEP men and women are still slated to play, albeit without fans in the stands.
The Miners have moved up the tip-off times for both games on Wednesday; the UTEP women will host rival New Mexico State at noon in the season opener for both teams, while the men welcome DII foe UT Permian Basin to town at 5 pm. In Phoenix where they’re currently headquartered, the NMSU men open the season on Friday against Arizona Christian.
The rivals have already scheduled a pair of contests in El Paso on the women’s side, but on the men’s side, no such Battle of I-10 has been put together as of yet for the Miners and Aggies to square off.
UTEP head coach Rodney Terry and NMSU head coach Chris Jans have both been asked about the prospect of scheduling a game or two this year to continue the rivalry, and both hinted that both sides are interested.
“We’ve been in constant contact from day one in terms of working something out to keep our games intact,” Terry said. “At times, it’s looked good and at times it hasn’t looked very good, but there has been constant dialogue every day in terms of trying to play those games.”
Jans agreed with his UTEP counterpart and underscored the importance of the rivalry.
“From my perspective, and it hasn’t changed since day one, they’re important to us, and they’re important to this region, I think they’re important to people that follow college basketball, and we have to make it happen,” Jans said. “We’re willing to do whatever we have to do, wherever we have to go to make it work for everyone else, and hopefully those folks are going to have that same attitude.”
On Monday, UTEP announced a nonconference game at No. 18 Arizona State that has been scheduled for Dec. 16 in Phoenix. It’s possible the Miners and Aggies work something out so that they can face each other in the Valley of the Sun while UTEP is in town.
Both New Mexico State and UTEP have said they want to continue adding nonconference games; time will tell if they elect to add each other.