Arizona, Marquette, and long-time rivals New Mexico and NM State are featured opponents as first-year UTEP men’s basketball head coach Rodney Terry revealed the Miners’ 2018-19 hoops schedule on Monday.
The Miners will embark on the innovative Conference USA “smart” schedule, while playing 16 regular-season games in the Don Haskins Center during the upcoming season.
“We’re excited about announcing our 2018-19 schedule. Coach [Lamont] Smith has done a great job with our scheduling, and considering the timeframe that we had to work with when we started,” Terry said. “I feel like our staff has pieced together a very competitive schedule – one that will challenge us is our difficult conference slate. I feel like our conference will be very good from top to bottom. I feel like our non-conference schedule will help us prepare for conference play.”
Following a home exhibition against New Mexico Highlands on Oct. 30, Terry and his revamped squad will open the new era of UTEP basketball against UT Permian Basin on Tuesday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. in the Haskins Center.
The Miners will then play at NM State in the FirstLight Federal Credit Union Battle of I-10 on Nov. 9. The Miners and Aggies will meet in the Sun City on Nov. 28.
After its contest at Arizona (Nov. 14), UTEP will host Eastern New Mexico on Nov. 19. The remaining non-conference home matchups include Northwestern State (Dec. 1), UC Riverside (Dec. 16), and a pair of contests in the 57th annual WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational.
The Miners will open with Norfolk State on Dec. 21 and will play the winner of the East Tennessee State-Wyoming game on Dec. 22 in the oldest collegiate holiday basketball tournament in the nation.
Other non-conference road opponents include New Mexico (Nov. 24), and Marquette (Dec. 4).
“Our philosophy in scheduling a lot of times is we want to try and schedule games in non-conference that help us prepare for conference play,” Terry said. “Playing in a hostile environment on the road will help us when we get a chance to play in a very tough place when conference starts. We’ll be prepared and will be ready to go.”
The new C-USA schedule format will see the 14 teams play each other once and their travel partner twice in the first seven weeks of the conference season. Following the first 14 league games, teams will be placed into one of three groups based on their conference standing. The teams will be divided into two groups of five (1-5 and 6-10) and a group of four (11-14).
During the final three weeks, teams will play four games (two home/two away) within their respective grouping. Home and away matchups will be determined by a preset formula.
“We’re super excited about [Conference USA’s ‘smart scheduling’]. The direction of our league with Judy MacLeod, what she’s been able to do with her staff and the help of some outside sources to come up with a really good plan for us,” Terry said. “I think it’s something on the cutting edge and outside the box in terms of really trying to be creative. This will give ourselves a chance to be, not only successful in postseason play, but to protect some of the teams that are doing really well throughout the course of a season and into conference play to have a higher seed and maybe along as well, pick up a multi-bid type situation when we have other teams eligible for postseason play. It’s a great idea, great plan and one that we’re excited about because it gives [C-USA] a chance to be a multi-bid league.”
Once all 18 games have been completed, the top 12 teams based on the final league standings will be seeded in the conference tournament. Teams will be guaranteed seeding within their respective group. For example, if a program lands in the second group (6-10), it will seed no higher than sixth and no lower than 10th in the tournament field.
UTEP will open the league slate against travel partner UTSA in back-to-back contests, the first on Jan. 3 in San Antonio, while the Miners and Roadrunners will meet again on Jan. 5 in the Don Haskins Center.
UTEP’s other prescheduled home C-USA opponents are North Texas (Jan. 10), Rice (Jan. 12), Old Dominion (Jan. 24), Charlotte (Jan. 26), Florida Atlantic (Feb. 7) and FIU (Feb. 9).
The Miners’ remaining prescheduled road league games are at UAB (Jan. 17), Middle Tennessee (Jan. 19), Marshall (Jan. 31), WKU (Feb. 2), LA Tech (Feb. 14) and Southern Miss (Feb. 16).
With the newly formatted conference schedule, five open dates (Feb. 23, Feb. 27, March 2, March 6 and March 9) are on the slate for the four remaining games. The 2019 Conference USA Championship is scheduled for March 13-16 in Frisco, Texas.