NIT Preview: Getting To Know UTEP Miners With Miner Rush

New Mexico hosts UTEP tonight at 7:00 p.m. MT on ESPN2, and to get to know the UTEP Miners better I sent over a few questions to Miner Rush to help us out.

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1. This used to be a huge rivalry when the two are in the WAC over a decade ago, is New Mexico still a big game for UTEP?

Absolutely. Rivalries like UTEP vs. UNM don't die very easily. These schools are separated by a short three and a half hour drive. Trust me, if you live in El Paso, being three and a half hours from anything is close. These schools haven't played in two years but I hear are working on scheduling a series starting next season. The programs have done a good job of keeping the rivalry up in football and basketball.

2. How disappointed are the UTEP fans are that they lost to Memphis for the title game when they beat them nearly 30 points three weeks prior?

It was one of the hardest losses I can remember as a Miner fan. It was the perfect storm. UTEP didn't have any chance at an automatic bid, the game was at home, the Miners were playing their best hoops of the season, and it was against a team that Miner fans love to watch lose. When El Paso was chosen as the host site of the tournament, the Memphis media and fans essentially trashed the city. Beating them would have been satisfying under any conditions, but doing it in a game that locked up UTEP's second consecutive NCAA bid? That would have been a thing of beauty. The disappointment was enormous. Luckily, the pairing of UTEP and UNM has given Miner fans a legitimate reason to get up off the mat.

3. Are fans happy with what Tim Floyd did in year one with UTEP?

Very much so. While UTEP fans wanted to see this team get into the tournament, we understood that this team lost two key starters. Center Derrick Caracter is now a Los Angeles Laker. 6'11 wing Arnett Moultrie transferred to Mississippi State. UTEP fans also understood that Floyd was going to transform UTEP's style of play tremendously. Tony Barbee, last years coach, focused on his dribble-drive weave offense. Tim Floyd is a student of Don Haskins and defense. Floyd has roots in town and Miner fans simply couldn't be happier.

4. Tell me about Randy Culepper's game and what makes him such a good scorer?

First of all, Randy Culpepper is an absolute monster athlete and in my opinion the best dunker in the NCAA. He's a really fun player to watch. While he was known mostly for his athleticism as a freshman and sophomore, last year he really became a complete basketball player. He's an above average three point shooter and when he lets the offense come to him and doesn't force his shots, he can take over a game. He's very quick, can hit the three, and can also attack the hoop with the best of them. He didn't have a great game against Memphis, so I fully expect for him to be on a mission against the Lobos.

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