Last season: 18-14, 10-6, lost to Southern Miss in C-USA semis
Key returner (s): Julian Washburn led Miners with 12.2 ppg and was the team's best defender, but shot 19 percent from 3-point range; McKenzie Moore scored 8.6 ppg once he became eligible will take over at PG; John Bohannon has had an up and down career, but he's a 6-11 senior who averaged 10 points, six rebounds and two blocks last year
Something to watch: It's NMSU's home opener and I would say last year's UTEP game at the Pan Am was the best regular season atmosphere I can remember in the six years I've covered the team. It's an important game for the Aggies for that same reason.
Regarding UTEP, does it seem like it's taken longer than expected for Tim Floyd to make his impact?
"I think it's taken a little longer after he ended up with eight seniors his first year here," said Bill Knight, the longtime UTEP writer for the El Paso Times. "He has the classes a little more staggered now. They will play up tempo if it's there. Last year they tried to run a little more but they didn't have anyone who could score. Defense won them games last year. It's something that Floyd always wants to be a staple. It was probably a strength last year and I'm sure it will be again."
Knight believes that UTEP will be better offensively, if for no other reason than the players are a year older as the Miners have five of the top seven scorers returning with Washburn, Bohannon, Moore, Cedrick Lang and CJ Cooper. Knight said Floyd is also high on redshirt freshmen Vince Hunter (6-7 post from Detroit) and Matt Willms, a 7-foot-1 center from Canada who grew up playing hockey.
The reality is that UTEP will be better than last year, even without highly touted freshman Isaac Hamilton, who was one of three recruits Floyd lost for one reason or another.