EL PASO, Texas - In the pandemic-revised Conference USA schedules, UTEP is playing conference opponents back-to-back on Friday and Saturday making it difficult to gain momentum over a long season.
As such the Miners (5-4, 2-2 C-USA) have split weekend series with their first two C-USA opponents, Southern Mississippi and Rice, and sit in the middle of the C-USA West standings.
Fortunately six other C-USA have done the same, including UTEP's next opponent in defending conference champion North Texas.
The Miners will head to Denton, TX to try and knock off a Mean Green (5-5, 1-1 C-USA) team that currently sits at .500.
But don't let the record fool you. Like UTEP, North Texas played a daunting non-conference schedule traveling to Power Five opponents Arkansas, Mississippi State, and West Virginia. North Texas lost each of those games.
UTEP's non-conference schedule included road losses Saint Mary's and Arizona, and a road victory at Arizona State.
Both UTEP and North Texas will hope that the challenging non-conference schedule will make their teams better over the course of C-USA play.
"We've seen good defenses already and what a really good defense looks like in terms of guys playing hard and playing the gaps," says UTEP Coach Rodney Terry. "So it helps prepare us for things that we're going to see in conference play.
A fine blueprint would be last season's North Texas team that went 6-7 in non-conference play, only to go 14-4 in C-USA play to win the conference title.
In terms of scouting North Texas, Coach Terry may look to a previous opponent.
"We'll see kind of similar to what we saw against Arizona to be honest with you. A team that'll defend really hard, play fast in transition."
Terry was also extremely complementary of reigning C-USA Player of the Year Javion Hamlet.
"They've got a really good general. in terms of facilitating their offense and getting them in their actions," says Terry of Hamlet, who had 14 points in a win over UTEP last season. "And he's a tough competitor."
Tipoff for Friday night's game is at 7pm CT/6pm MT, followed Saturday's game at 3pm CT/2pm MT.
Watch the attached clip for the full UTEP Basketball Coaches Show sponsored by Speaking Rock.