UTEP vs. Kansas State
Tip off: 5:30 PM EST
Spread: KS -10.5
M/L: KS -600, UTEP +475
Things have gone rough early on for UTEP, but that was kind of expected. After finishing 25-10 last season, they graduated six seniors and lost 84% of their scoring. So, for Miners fans, a 5-5 start isn’t actually all that bad, and the Miners have won three straight, including last night’s impressive win over Clemson.
Michael Perez had a very impressive game last night. He put up 25 points on 8 of 12 shooting, while hitting 3 of 6 from behind the arc. The 6’3″ sophomore is putting up 12.1 points per game this season, and if you throw out his horrible first four games, he has been even more impressive. Since his poor start, over the last 6 games, he has averaged 17.6 points per game, and last night’s 25 was his season high, as he played the entire game. His minutes have increased incrementally since early in the year, when he failed to see more than 24 minutes a game in any of the first four contests.
Joining Perez in the scoring has been Gabriel McCulley and Julian Washburn, who avearge 11.7 ppg and 10.4, respectively. McCulley, a 6’7″ senior forward, had been on a roll prior to last night’s game against Clemson, when he battled foul trouble and played only 23 minutes. His 18 point, 13 rebound performance in the win over New Mexico State on December 11th was impressive, and if he can play tough on the interior, it should enable UTEP to hang with Kansas State, and perhaps cover the spread, even if winning the game is an unreasonable proposition.
Last season, the Wildcats went 23-11 and 10-6 in the Big 12. They lost to the Wisconsin Badgers by 5 in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
One silver lining from last year, though, was that they defeated in-state rival Kansas. They are only 3-20 in club history against Kansas, and that single victory accounts for more pleasure than 5 wins against other clubs, for fans and players alike. Jacob Pullen scored 38 points in that home victory, and had an OFF rating of almost 151. The Wildcats went on to beat Missouri and Texas following that win and they earned a #5 seed in the NCAA tournament.
This year, things may go even better. They’ve won 8 of their first 9 games, with the lone loss coming against West Virginia on December 8th. They are 1-0 against ranked opponents, with the victory coming over #21 Alabama last week.
Things get tougher when K-State begins conference play in January, as they face three ranked opponents within the span of a week (Kansas, Missouri, and Baylor). Until that test, they must win games like tonight to further solidify their place and build their record before the tougher stretch of games.
If you like the odds set forth in the beginning of this article, they came from Bookmaker where they offer a 5% return on lost bets. Also, check out our paid pick plans for the 2011-2012 year, as we murder the books once again.