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Andy Katz | Correspondent | November 28, 2017

Katz: What's next for UTEP after Tim Floyd's sudden retirement?

  UTEP coach Tim Floyd retired suddenly Monday night.

Here's what's going on in the college basketball world today:

Tim Floyd retires suddenly

Tim Floyd’s bombshell in El Paso Monday night will force new athletic director Jim Senter to make the most important hire in quite some time for the Miners. Floyd was a Don Haskins disciple. He fit UTEP. Floyd’s decision to abruptly retire after losing to Lamar left the program in the capable hands of his assistants Phil Johnson and Bobby Braswell, both former head coaches at San Jose State and Northridge, respectively. Either could be the head coach in the future and the program would be getting a veteran coach who understands the Southwest/West landscape.

But this program also needs to become regionally relevant again. I can attest that when Haskins was at UTEP the Miners were a force, even during his latter years. Games in El Paso were an event. Rivalry games against New Mexico and New Mexico State were must-see as well as when Utah or BYU came to town. Floyd made an impassioned plea to get UTEP into the Mountain West. That makes too much sense for UTEP to be rejoined with UNM in a conference and other regional schools it used to play in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. But the MWC may not see the value in adding UTEP (or New Mexico State for that matter).

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Still, regionally, and really that’s what matters most locally to get people reengaged, it would make this job much more attractive. If the MWC can’t happen and Conference USA is the long term home then taking the Wichita State approach is a must. Make UTEP the dominant force in a league, win games in the NCAA tournament and command the attention from networks and important non-conference tournaments. The task is tall, but the history is rich and it’s not unreachable to come back.

Terps' turnover troubles

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon told after the loss to Syracuse Monday night that there were too many turnovers and the Terps were playing in their first true road game. And it showed in the final few possessions. Syracuse swallowed up the Terps and made it difficult for Maryland to run its offense. They relied on Kevin Huerter for bail out long 3s. But the turnover bug is an issue and something Turgeon said prior to the game had to be fixed. Maryland had 18 turnovers against the Orange. The Terps are averaging 17.2 a game.

UNI faces early test at UNLV

Northern Iowa played for the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament title against Villanova and lost. But the Panthers presence in the game speaks volumes about the relevance of the Missouri Valley staple. The Panthers will get a golden chance to continue to establish itself against a surging UNLV (No. 35 in the Power 36) Thursday. The Panthers will have their hands full with Brandon McCoy. But the Rebels will have to deal with 6-4 freshman Tywhon Pickford. He had 18 boards and 18 points in the semifinal win over NC State at Atlantis.

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Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson told the team “got connected on the defensive end and guarded well for three games. We are a plus nine in rebounding after seven games and last year we were minus for the year.’’ The improvement of Juwan McLoud at the point has been a big plus in his sophomore year and the consistency from senior Bennett Koch (15 points and 8 boards) makes this team a possible MVC title contender.

ACC-Big Ten Challenge provides great atmosphere

Love the tournaments that were on display last week. But what we’re seeing this week with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and was on display during the Gavitt Tipoff Games is the need for more straight up on campus games. The atmospheres are what make the sport. Coaches who get out of their comfort zone and play the true road games should be applauded. That’s exactly what needs to happen. And that’s why the newly announced Villanova-Kansas series is a huge hit for college basketball. The two programs will play a home-and-home beginning next season, starting at Kansas next season and in Philadelphia in 2019.

The arrival of 20 games in the Big Ten and ACC will cut these games down even more for some schools. They shouldn’t. Of course, there will be at least three to four buy games (a must for the lower level schools’ budget). But the committee, the fans and the sport need/want/must see high-profile matchups. The benefit always outweighs the potential for a loss. Opportunities against high-profile schools will get teams at-large berths, not beating up on lesser competition just to get a W.

Rutgers looks for statement vs. FSU

Rutgers hosts Florida State tonight in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. It’s a great chance for the Scarlet Knights to make a splash and get noticed in the conference. Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell told that the Scarlet Knights are much more solid defensively and on the boards. He still believes in their ability to make shots, even if the numbers may not show it yet. “We just keep grinding,’’ Pikiell said. “We are more athletic at every position.’’ That should certainly be tested against the Seminoles tonight. The Scarlet Knights are 6-0 and a win over Florida State would give them the necessary momentum into the Big Ten opening weekend at Minnesota and Michigan State, the two favorites for the title now.

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