While much of the chatter regarding UTEP head coach Tim Floyd at this week’s Battle 4 Atlantis is focused on his ongoing feud with USC head coach Andy Enfield, the fact of the matter is that the man’s pretty good when it comes to basketball strategy. And that ability, along with the skill of his players, was on full display in the Miners’ 78-70 win over Tennessee.
Offensively the Miners shot 58% from the field, making up for their 3-for-10 night from beyond the arc by making 26 of their 40 field goal attempts inside of the arc. The lone signs of trouble for UTEP were their assist-to-turnover ratio (13 assists and 13 turnovers) and their hesitance to attack the Tennessee pressure during parts of the second half. The versatile McKenzie Moore led four starters in double figures with 19 points, and as a result of the victory UTEP (4-2 overall) remains undefeated against teams other than New Mexico State (0-2).
The defensive end is where UTEP did its best work, with a little help from a Tennessee squad that struggled with making layups. Using a variety of defenses, including a triangle-and-2, UTEP limited Tennessee to 34.9% shooting from the field and 3-for-21 from beyond the arc. The Volunteers managed to corral an impressive 54.2% of their missed shots, but their inability to take advantage of those extra scoring opportunities was a deciding factor.
UTEP advances to Friday’s semifinal round, where they’ll take on Iowa. Obviously the Miners will need to perform better on the glass (Cedric Lang accounted for one point and one rebound in 26 minutes of action) against the Hawkeyes, but with Floyd on the sidelines it’s safe to say that UTEP has a “puncher’s chance” at a second upset in as many days.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 10 West Virginia at No. 6 Kansas, 7:00 p.m.
The last time these two teams got together, West Virginia actually knocked off Kansas in Morgantown. It was the third time in the last three seasons that WVU has beaten KU at home. So there’s some revenge at stake here. But there’s also the whole Big 12 title race, which West Virginia currently leads. If the Mountaineers win tonight, they’ll be up by two games on Kansas with the tie breaker and just seven games left to play. The Jayhawks regular season title streak could be over if that happens.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 8 Michigan State at No. 18 Purdue, 7:00 p.m.
We think the Spartans are back to their early season form after wins over Maryland (at home), Northwestern, Rutgers and Michigan. If Michigan State really wants to prove something to the college basketball world, they will go into West Lafayette tonight and get a win. Denzel Valentine vs. Raphael Davis will be fun.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
- Pitt will pay a visit to No. 12 Miami in a game the Panthers could really use a win in. Pitt hasn’t been the most consistent team in the country and without adding a few quality wins they could be looking at the bubble.
- Duquesne will be paying a visit to No. 19 Dayton, who moved into a tie for first place in the Atlantic 10 thanks to VCU’s loss on Saturday.
- Georgia is right there on the bubble, and they will have a chance to try and push themselves into a better spot when they play at No. 22 Kentucky tonight.
- Creighton probably has to win out to have a shot of making the NCAA tournament, and that includes tonight, when they host No. 5 Xavier.
- No. 7 Virginia will be hosting Virginia Tech, who picked off the Wahoos in Blacksburg earlier this year.
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- No. 1 Villanova at DePaul, 8:30 p.m.
- No. 25 Wichita State at Drake, 8:00 p.m.
It’s Tuesday, which means that it is once again time for the NBC Sports Player of the Year Power Rankings.
And you’ll be shocked to find out that Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield is still No. 1 in those rankings. By a pretty wide margin.
The rest of the top 10?
They can be found here, at the CBT FaceBook page. Follow that page for the countdown: