Miners Make Right Call By Scheduling Jayhawks
Earlier this morning, we received word that the UTEP men's basketball team had added an extra game to their 2020-21 regular season schedule. The Miners signed a contract with Kansas to play next Thursday evening at Allen Fieldhouse. I love the move for the team and it is exactly what they should have done prior to the Conference USA Tournament, which starts the following week in Frisco, Texas.
UTEP has been lucky this college basketball season, and only two C-USA games were canceled due to COVID. Last weekend, the team was supposed to play FAU, but the games in Boca Raton were canceled due to a positive test among the Miners. It also forced this weekend's home games against Charlotte to be moved back a day. However, head coach Rodney Terry is fortunate that his team will play 16 out of the 18 game league schedule, barring any unforeseen events in the next few days.
That meant that he had three choices for next week. The first would be to not play any games and prepare for the C-USA Tournament instead. This probably would be the worst decision of the three, since his team would have more than two weeks off before playing in Frisco. The second choice would be to schedule a home game for next week, more than likely against a Division 2 or 3 opponent. UTEP does not have the resources to offer a D1 school $25,000 or more to come play in El Paso, but they could have probably lured a small school to come and play them for much less money. I was not in favor of this move either, since the team would get little out of playing lesser competition prior to the postseason tournament.
That left only one decision for Coach Terry and his program: schedule a road game next week against the best possible opponent that was off. UTEP and Kansas had held discussions back in November about playing each other in non-conference play, but when the Miners tested positive for COVID, those plans went out the window. Now, they have an opportunity to reschedule their game during a week when both programs are off before they prepare for their conference tournaments. It is a great move for the Miners, since Kansas will be better than any team they will potentially meet up against in Frisco. The Jayhawks are currently ranked 17th in the country in the AP Poll and 19th in the latest Coach's Poll.
I would much rather see UTEP play up with a tough road game than a softer challenge or no contest at all. Not only will the Jayhawks be a great test for them, but they will also receive a substantial check for playing the road game. Fans can also watch the game on ESPN + or Big 12 Now. Jon Teicher will be calling the game on 600 ESPN El Paso. The two teams will also meet again next season in Lawrence, Kansas.