UTEP to Face Butler in NCAA Tournament at 2:55 p.m. MT Thursday

Claude Britten

Claude Britten

March 16, 2010

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UTEP (26-6) is one of 65 teams invited to the 2010 NCAA Tournament. The Miners are seeded 12th in the West Region and will face fifth seed Butler (28-4) in the first round on Thursday, March 18 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. Tip-off time is approximately 1:55 p.m. PT (2:55 p.m. MT). The winner of the game will meet either no. 4 seed Vanderbilt or no. 13 seed Murray State in the second round on Saturday. Vanderbilt and Murray State will square off at 11:30 a.m. PT (12:30 p.m. MT) on Thursday.

"Oh are they good," UTEP coach Tony Barbee said of the Bulldogs. "I started watching them on tape and get a little nervous. They're that good.

"Their big four, (Matt) Howard, (Willie) Veasley, (Shelvin) Mack and (Gordon) Hayward, the last two both played with Arnett (Moultrie) on the U19 team," Barbee said. "They're a talented team that can beat you in a lot of ways. They can play multiple styles."

UTEP is 25th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and receiving votes in the AP poll. Butler is ranked eighth in the coaches poll and 11th in the AP poll.

CBS Sports has coverage of all NCAA Tournament games. In addition to the regional telecast on CBS, CBS College Sports will beam the UTEP and Butler game to a national audience. Spero Dedes (play-by-play) and Bob Wenzel (color commentary) will handle the call of the Miners and the Bulldogs.

UTEP fans can also listen to the English radio broadcast on KOFX 92.3 FM (Jeff Limberg/Steve Yellen) or in Spanish on José 1650 AM (Omar Ropele).

The Miners are making their 17th NCAA appearance and first in five years. UTEP also played in "The Big Dance" in 1963, 1964, 1966, 1967, 1970, 1975, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, 2004 and 2005.

UTEP, then known as Texas Western, won the 1966 national title by upsetting Kentucky in the final. To this day UTEP remains the only major college men's team in the state of Texas to capture a national championship.

UTEP's all-time NCAA Tournament record is 14-15. The Miners haven't won a first round game since 1992, when they toppled Evansville and top seed Kansas to reach the Sweet 16. UTEP's record in NCAA Tournament openers is 7-9 with victories in 1964, 1966, 1967, 1985, 1987, 1989 and 1992.UTEP has never been seeded 12th in the NCAA Tournament. The Miners are 5-8 all-time when placed in the West Regional.

Only one player on this year's UTEP roster has NCAA Tournament experience. Derrick Caracter was a member of Louisville teams that earned back-to-back trips to "The Big Dance" in 2007 and 2008. He has averaged 7.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in six NCAA Tournament games, making 16-of-24 shot attempts (.667). Louisville reached the Elite Eight of the 2008 tourney.

While Barbee will be making his NCAA debut as a head coach, he is no stranger to college basketball's pinnacle event. Barbee has been to eight NCAA Tournaments, including two as a player at UMass (1992 & 1993), one as a graduate assistant at UMass (1996), and five as an assistant coach at UMass and Memphis (1997, 1998, 2003, 2004 & 2006). The John Calipari disciple has been to the Elite Eight twice (1996 & 2006) and the Final Four once (1996).

While Barbee has never played or coached at Butler, he is an Indianapolis native who attended North Central High School.

Two Miners hail from The Golden State -- Isaac Gordon, who is from Los Angeles, and Julyan Stone, who is from Goleta. UTEP hasn't played a game in the state of California this season but was there for five contests during the 2008-09 campaign (three in Anaheim for the 76 Classic and two in Santa Clara for the Cable Car Classic).

The Miners are playing a postseason game in the state of California for the third time. They lost at Fresno State, 71-64, in a 1983 NIT opening round game and also fell to Seton Hall, 80-64, in a 1988 NCAA Tournament first round game in Los Angeles.

Butler carries a 20-game winning streak, the longest in the country, into the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs, who haven't lost since Dec. 22, were Horizon League regular season and tournament champions.

Sophomore swingman Gordon Hayward (15.4 ppg), sophomore guard Shelvin Mack (13.9 ppg), junior forward Matt Howard (12.3 ppg) and senior forward Willie Veasley (10.3 ppg) all have double figure scoring averages for the Bulldogs. Butler ranks among the national leaders in won-lost percentage (fifth, .875), scoring defense (15th, 60.0 ppg), free throw percentage (20th, .748), scoring margin (27th, +10.1 ppg) and three-point field goal percentage defense (38th, .309).

UTEP and Butler have one common opponent in UAB. The Miners swept the Blazers in Conference USA play, winning 74-65 in double overtime in Birmingham and 52-50 at the Don Haskins Center. Butler lost at UAB, 67-57, for its last defeat.

UTEP and Butler are meeting for the first time. The Miners are 5-1 all-time versus Horizon League teams including three wins over Loyola Chicago (during the 1967-68, 1968-69 and 1971-72 seasons). UTEP also won at Wisconsin Milwaukee, 57-41, on Dec. 13, 1971, and topped Cleveland State, 96-54, in the Sun Carnival Classic on Dec. 29, 1988 in El Paso. The Miners dropped a 47-44 decision to Detroit in the championship game of the Sierra Providence SunClassic Tournament on Dec. 29, 1998 in El Paso.

The Miners are making their third consecutive postseason tournament appearance under Barbee. UTEP played in the CBI (College Basketball Invitational) in 2008 and 2009. The Miners reached the CBI Championship Series a year ago, losing the third and deciding game to Oregon State at the Haskins Center.

UTEP is 4-3 in postseason tournament games under Barbee, who has reached the postseason 18 times in 19 seasons as a player, assistant coach or head coach.

"Playing in the NCAA Tournament is a different type of animal," Barbee said. "The experiences that I have, the experiences that Derrick Caracter has had in a couple of NCAA Tournaments can only go so far as a player, until you go through it. So we're going to do our best to explain to the guys the emotions they're going to be feeling but at the same time until you go through it, it's a totally unique experience to understand from the outside looking in."



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