Down here in Minerland, folks are getting a little impatient with the home team.
The local media, for instance, pretty well slashed the Miners to ribbons after Thursday's 10-point loss to Utah.Derry Eads of the El Paso Herald-Post said the Miners are "too selfish" and "too undisciplined offensively."
Lee Williams of the El Paso Times wrote: "The Miners aren't good shooters. They're not particularly adept at making good passes, either. Dribbling? A lost art."
Brutal. This is, after all, a 13-6 team we're talking about, not some 6-12 doormat. It's also a team coached by Don Haskins, and Haskins' WAC record is peerless. Since the WAC instituted a postseason tournament, UTEP has won four of seven titles. The Miners have also been to the NCAA tournament eight straight years.
But even Haskins claims to have become disenchanted with his team.
"I can't count the number of times we've taken bad shots," Haskins said after the Utah loss. "And we're terrible ballhandlers; we've been a terrible ballhandling team since the beginning. Obviously, we have no leadership.
"I don't know how we've won 13 games."
So are the Miners really this bad? Were the Utah game, and BYU's 16-point win in Provo, accurate indicators of how far the Miners have fallen? Don't bet on it. Look at the historical record. In the past four seasons, UTEP has had a 6-3 WAC record nine games into league play. That's a whole game behind their current pace.
UTEP has not won a WAC regular-season title for three years, but they have won the WAC tournament two years in a row and finished second - by four points - the other time.
The fact is, UTEP teams have a habit of suffering occasional lapses. Last year, for instance, the Miners lost at home to New Mexico in their regular-season finale. Then they turned around and pounded the Lobos by 17 points in the first round of the WAC tourney. They lost a one-pointer here to Hawaii last season, then went on the road and walloped Wyoming.
On the other hand, this isn't tournament time, so maybe the Miners won't be sufficiently interested to deal with the problem of 7-foot-6 Shawn Bradley and his colleagues tonight at the Special Events Center.
The thing to watch for BYU will probably be rebounding. The last time these teams met, BYU grabbed 10 more rebounds and won. This season, UTEP has won only one game in which it was outrebounded by its opponent.
The game starts at 7:30 and will be televised live by KSL-TV (Channel 5).