Coming off an impressive offensive performance against Bucknell, Wake Forest will look to build some early season momentum as they take on the UTEP Miners Thursday afternoon at 1:30 as part of the Charleston Classic. If the Deacs survive this one, they’ll most likely get a shot at defending national champion Villanova on Friday. First things first though, let’s take a look at what the Miners bring to the table.
UTEP is led by coach Tim Floyd (USC, Hornets, Bulls, Iowa State, etc) and somehow this is already is 7th season as the head man in El Paso. The Miners are 1-0 this season, but haven’t yet played a division one opponent from which Danny Manning and staff could scout the film. Last season UTEP finished with a 19-14 record and a final KenPom ranking of 215. KP has them pegged pretty much in the same spot for this season, currently sitting at 217.
The Miners are very much a guard-oriented team and are led by guards Dominic Artis and Omega Harris along with forward Terry Winn. Artis is more of a slasher with a high assist rate whereas Harris shot more three pointers than twos last season and made an impressive 44% of them. At 6’7”, Winn is undersized a bit in the post, but averaged 10 points and over 6 rebounds as a freshman. Aside from these guys it seems like many of the other minutes are up for grabs, as Floyd added six newcomers to the roster this season.
From a style of play standpoint, UTEP likes to play a very fast tempo game. Last season they played the 38th fastest tempo in the nation, whereas Wake was 41st. From this it seems that the game will be very fast paced and fun to watch tomorrow, but there may be a lot of turnovers. From reading Floyd’s comments about their two exhibition games and first regular season game, turnovers have been quite a problem for the Miners thus far.
So where is the advantage for Wake? The most glaring spot is in the post. UTEP is thin in the frontcourt and the Deacs will need to exploit this through finding John Collins, Dinos Mitoglou, and Doral Moore early and often. If Wake can force double teams on Collins, it will open up space for Crawford, Woods and the other shooters to operate as the game progresses. Obviously, it will be important for Wake’s bigs to stay out of foul trouble, especially if matched up against smaller, quicker Miners. Wake definitely needs to improve their defensive rebounding, as that has been a problem in the first couple games of the season against sub-par competition.
Another big key for Wake on the defensive end is keeping the UTEP guards out of the paint. Crawford, Childress, Woods and Wilbekin will need to be sound defensively against Artis, as if they break down it will lead to either foul trouble from the bigs or open three pointers for UTEP’s shooters.
Overall, the oddsmakers in Vegas like the Deacs by 9, whereas KenPom has them favored by 10. It will surely be a strange atmosphere, as Thursday games at 1:30 aren’t the best for fan support. If Wake can play with early emotion in the sleepy atmosphere and knock down some shots in the opening minutes, it would go a long way towards earning a date with the Wildcats.
The game will only be broadcasted on ESPN3 - get ready for a healthy amount of Gildan commercials featuring Blake Shelton.