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UTEP IS TAKING SAME PATH IT DID WHEN IT CAPTURED '66 NCAA TITLE

History may be repeating itself, but the Texas-El Paso Miners, who upset the nation's No. 2 team, Kansas, for a spot in the round of 16, are ready to make a little history of their own.

This year's Miners find themselves following the footsteps of the legendary 1966 team, the only Texas team to ever win an NCAA championship.Like the 1966 team, the Miners weren't given much credit going into tournament play, although this year's Miners (27-6) had won nine of their last 10 games.

But after defeating Evansville 55-50 and knocking off second-ranked Kansas 66-60, people are suddenly standing up and paying attention, particularly Cincinnati.

The Miners will face Cincinnati Friday in Kansas City. The 1966 team beat Kansas and Cincinnati to take the Midwest Regional Championship and head to the Final Four.

After taking care of Utah 85-78, the 1966 Miners shocked the nation using an all-black starting lineup to capture the NCAA tournament crown with a 72-65 victory over No. 1 Kentucky.

"We're playing the same teams as they did to get there, and that's like a sign, so I guess if that's a sign, we might go to the championship," Johnny Melvin, who scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the victory over Kansas, said in a television interview.

The Miners climbed as high as No. 19 in the nation during the regular season but four weeks later were dropped from the rankings after consecutive losses to New Mexico and Air Force.

They never returned to the national rankings and were seeded lower in the tournament than teams that didn't survive the first round.

"I'm not trying to be cocky, but we deserve the national attention after beating the No. 2 team in the nation," Melvin said.

The Miners have provided something of a catharsis for this city on the U.S.-Mexican border. It has been living under a black cloud for about a year.

The national headlines it has been getting have been about the hometown utility filing for bankruptcy, some of its most prominent residents being indicted in an insurance fraud case and its congressman being on the list of the worst abusers of the House bank.

It was no wonder that thousands of jubilant fans packed the city's airport to revel in the Miners' court magic. Airport officials estimated about 3,000 people showed up.