Team preview: UTEP

Blue Ribbon Yearbook previews the 2012-13 season, exclusively on Insider

Updated: October 24, 2012, 9:25 AM ET
Blue Ribbon Yearbook

For the most comprehensive previews available on all 335 Division I teams, order the "Bible" of college basketball, the 2012-13 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, at www.blueribbonyearbookonline.com or call 1-877-807-4857.

COACH AND PROGRAM

Tim Floyd still isn't fielding a team of grizzled college basketball veterans. But his team is a year more seasoned than this time last year, when his roster included 10 newcomers.

In Floyd's mind, though, it's still a fairly clean slate for a team that finished below .500 last season.

"Absolutely, I would say every spot but probably Julian Washburn's is up for grabs," Floyd said.

Julian Washburn (11.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.6 apg) is certainly a good place to start when building a lineup. The 6-7, 205-pound sophomore, who can play inside or outside, started in 30 of the 31 games he played as a true freshman.

"He's a guy who has a chance to play beyond the college level if he'll continue to improve," Floyd said. " His athleticism is excellent and he's one of the better defenders I've ever coached. He's a guy who can make a perimeter shot. I think the last step he needs to grow in is improving his midrange game, and he has to get to the foul line."

Washburn shot just 71 free throws last season, not enough for a player who has the ball as much as he does on offense.

Floyd needs 6-10, 210-pound junior center John Bohannon (11.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.7 apg, .585 FG) to step forward and play more consistently. At times, Bohannon looks like one of the better big men in the conference. At others, he is a liability.

"I would say consistency, starting with rebounding," Floyd said when asked what he needs from Bohannon this season. "I would establish that every night his goal is to go out and get 10 rebounds. It seems like every time he rebounds, he scores. I would say fewer mistakes, value the ball and sometimes less is more. He doesn't need to hit it out of the park every time he catches it, but sometimes just allowing the ball to move safely."

The biggest step forward for the Miners this season comes in the backcourt, which Floyd called "average at best last year."

Returnees Jacques Streeter (7.2 ppg, 4.4 apg, 3.1 rpg) and C.J. Cooper (3.2 ppg, 1.3 apg, 1.1 rpg) will lead the backcourt at the beginning of the season. The 6-0, 175-pound Streeter, a transfer from Cal State Fullerton who is one of two scholarship seniors on the roster, started in 29 of the 32 games he played last season. The 6-0, 170-pound Cooper played in 27 games without a start as a true freshman.

Ultimately, though, the team's point guard could be 6-6, 190-pound sophomore McKenzie Moore. He was a highly regarded point guard from Pleasant Hill, Calif., who originally committed to Saint Mary's. Moore re-opened his recruitment after averaging 18 points, 6 rebounds and 11 assists as a senior at College Park High School. Moore failed to qualify after graduation, enrolled in junior college for a semester and transferred to UTEP for the 2012 spring semester. He will be eligible to play in December.

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"He will be good enough to challenge those guys for the position," Floyd said. "I would say you would be safe as projecting him as an all conference type player."

Floyd compared Moore favorably to former UTEP point guard Julyan Stone.

Konner Tucker, a 6-4, 185-pound graduate transfer from Sam Houston State, gives UTEP some experience and scoring in the backcourt. He averaged a team-high 12.0 points last year and ranked fourth in the Southland Conference in 3-pointers per game (2.2).

"He transferred over to Sam from Wake Forest and originally committed to Kentucky when Billy Gillispie was there," Floyd said. "He needs to make some shots for us."

Sophomore Jalen Ragland (2.2 ppg, 0.5 rpg) and freshman Twymond Howard could play in the frontcourt or backcourt for the Miners. The 6-6, 175-pound Ragland was expected to give the Miners more than he did a year ago when he played in just 19 games.

Howard, a 6-6, 210-pound Parade All-America from Pearl, Miss., is a huge addition to UTEP's roster. He was a finalist for Mr. Basketball in Mississippi after averaging 25 points, 12 rebounds and three assists as a senior. He should push for immediate playing time.

Another true freshman expected to make an impact is 6-8, 240-pound Chris Washburn, Jr., who played at South Grand Prairie High School in Texas. He is Julian's younger brother and his father, Chris Sr., is a former NBA player. The younger Washburn averaged 12 points, 10 boards and 4 assists for a team that finished 35-3 last season.

He'll fight for time with 6-9, 225-pound Cedrick Lang, who started the final 16 games last season despite playing the last 14 with a stress fracture in his foot. Lang (6.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, .611 FG) obviously brings toughness to the Miners.

UTEP also returns two players who sat out most of last season.

Malcolm Moore, a 6-7, 220-pound senior who was a junior college transfer last season, played in seven game before suffering a torn ACL. Moore averaged 4.4 points and 3.0 rebounds before his injury.

Hooper Vint, a 6-10, 220-pound freshman, played in five games before having to sit for the year because of a bulging disk in his back. Vint averaged 4.6 points and 4.0 boards in his short time on the court. Vint showed his range, hitting 2 of 5 3-pointers.

Seven-foot freshman center Matt Willms adds height to the backcourt. The native of Canada played last season at nationally renowned Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, where he averaged 8.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocked shots for a team that finished 32-1.

BLUE RIBBON ANALYSIS

BACKCOURT: B
BENCH/DEPTH: B
FRONTCOURT: B
INTANGIBLES: A

UTEP should take a step forward this season, but the length of the stride might not show in the win-loss ledger. Floyd beefed up his team's non-conference schedule. The Miners have their annual home-and-home tussle with rival New Mexico State as well as home games against Nebraska, UNLV and Oregon and road games at Colorado State and Arizona. They also open the Old Spice Classic in Orlando against Oklahoma with a matchup against either Clemson or Gonzaga next.

"Even what some might consider warm-up games -- Idaho and Oral Roberts -- those people had better RPIs than we did a year ago," Floyd said.

Floyd said the tougher schedule "seemed like a good idea last spring" but he wasn't as sure before the season began.

"We did not have an all conference player a year ago, didn't rebound it very well, didn't shoot it great," Floyd said. "We just have to get better in all areas, and I think normally a coach will take a step back scheduling wise with that scenario. But we went the other route in hopes to get these young guys some real meaningful experience early and hope to be better in conference play."

By conference play, though, most C-USA coaches think UTEP will be one of the teams to beat.

"I think UTEP is going to be immensely better," said Marshall head coach Tom Herrion. "They've got guys coming back now and will be really, really good."

For the most comprehensive previews available on all 335 Division I teams, order the "Bible" of college basketball, the 2012-13 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, at www.blueribbonyearbookonline.com or call 1-877-807-4857.