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Can the UCF Knights Make the NCAA Tournament for the First Time since 2005?

UCF Knights 2018-2019 Men’s Basketball Preview

NCAA Basketball: Cincinnati at Central Florida Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Knights are getting set to kick off their third season under head coach Johnny Dawkins. Despite his short tenure, Dawkins has the highest win percentage out of any coach in UCF history. He lead the Knights to a 24-12 mark and a NIT Final Four appearance in his first season. Last season, the Knights finished 19-13 despite Tacko Fall and B.J. Taylor only playing one game together due to injury. There are high expectations this season that seem obtainable if this roster can stay healthy.

The Big 3

Aubrey Dawkins, Tacko Fall and B.J. Taylor have never played a game together. Aubrey, son of head coach Johnny Dawkins, transferred to UCF from Michigan for the 2016-17 season. After sitting out due to transfer rules, he spent last year on the sidelines with an injury.

These three players are the main reasons why UCF is expected to do so well. The trio accounted for 41 points in UCF’s exhibition game against Flagler last week. The big question is if all three can stay healthy throughout the season.

New Faces to Watch

Collin Smith, who sat out last season after transferring from George Washington, is the next big man in line behind Tacko Fall. This will leave the redshirt sophomore from Jacksonville with big shoes to fill (quite literally). He’ll definitely get a lot of playing time as Tacko will only be in 20-25 minutes per game.

Freshman Dre Fuller and junior Frank Bertz were UCF’s two signees for this past recruiting class. Both are listed at guard and will definitely help provide UCF with depth in the backcourt. Bertz might be the next Matt Williams as he shot 47.6% from the 3-point line at East Los Angeles College last season.

Projections

In addition to the American’s preseason poll, all of the major sports outlets, including CBS and ESPN, have the Knights winning the American Conference and making it to the NCAA Tournament as a mid-seed team. Andy Katz even went so far as to say the Knights could be a Final Four team:

There have never been such high expectations placed on a UCF team, but Dawkins has been there as a player and he’s ready to be there as a coach. It all starts against Rider in the season opener.