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Let’s Catch You Up on UCF Men’s Basketball

Now that football season is over, it’s time to get you slackers up to date on Knights hoops.

Tacko Fall is off to a great start this season for UCf Basketball.
Derek Warden

With football now over, it appears Knight Nation is now officially ready to turn its attention to basketball season:

We aim to please here at Black & Gold Banneret, so without further adieu, here’s your UCF Knights Men’s Basketball Update:

Record

12-2, 2-0 in The American. 8-1 at home and winners of six straight. UCF is the last undefeated team in AAC play with Temple handing Houston its first loss earlier this week.

NET Ranking

31st as of January 10th. That’s second-best in The American outside of Houston (9th).

Big Wins

  • 78-73 vs. Temple (12-3, 2-1 The American, 41st NET) on January 2nd. Temple just handed Houston their first loss of the year.
  • 70-64 vs. Alabama (10-4, 1-1 SEC, 54th NET) on November 29th. Alabama knocked off #13 Kentucky to open SEC play.
  • 95-88 vs. Georgia Southern (10-6, 2-1 Sun Belt, 125th NET) on December 11th. GSU is averaging 85 points per game, 14th-best in the nation.

UCF also won by 12 at UConn in their last game. It was the Knights’ first-ever win in Hartford:

Tough Losses

  • 80-79 vs. FAU (11-5, 2-1 C-USA, 164th NET) on November 11th. UCF led by 20 in the first half, and lost the game on a putback of a desperation jumper by Simeon Lepichev with under one second to go.
  • 64-62 in overtime at Missouri (9-4, 0-1 SEC, 71st NET) on December 2nd. UCF led by three in the final moments when Jordan Geist hit a buzzer-beater to force OT. Collin Smith’s desperation heave at the OT buzzer was just barely off:

What the Knights Are Doing Well

  • Defense. The Knights are 25th in the nation in scoring defense (63.0 points per game allowed, 3rd in the AAC) and 13th in field goal percentage allowed (38.0%, 2nd in the AAC). Tacko Fall’s presence in the interior has a lot to do with that, obviously, but let’s also give up some credit to Aubrey Dawkins, Collin Smith and Chad Brown, who have augmented Tacko up front and on the wing. Only two teams have broken 80 points on UCF so far.
  • Not Making Mistakes. UCF is 13th in Division I in fewest turnovers committed. UCF is also tops in The American in that category, as well as fewest fouls committed (13th nationally).
  • Overall Shooting. The Knights lead The American in field goal percentage (24th nationally) at 49.1%. Tacko Fall is at 80%, and five of the Knights’ top nine contributors are at 47% or better, including Aubrey Dawkins and Terrell Allen. The Knights are third in scoring offense in the AAC at 75.6 points per game.
  • Rim Protection. Duh. 5.2 blocks per game (22nd D-I, 1st AAC), and that has kept opponents’ FG% low.

Areas of Concern

  • Free Throw Shooting. UCF is shooting just 63% as a team, second to last in The American and 329th in the nation out of 351 teams. Of the seven Knights with double-digit free throw attempts on the year, four of them are below 75%, and Tacko Fall is at 27%.
  • Outside Shooting. The Knights are hitting seven threes a game, 250th-most in the nation. However, they are hitting 37.5%, tops in The American and close to the top-50.

Who’s Playing Well

B.J. Taylor
Derek Warden
  • B.J. Taylor. 17.6 ppg (Leads the team, 5th AAC). 41% FG/40% 3FG/76% FT splits. With much of the ball-handling role given to Terrell Allen, B.J. is free to create his shot, especially down the stretch, as is his custom.
  • Tacko Fall. 10.5 ppg (3rd team), 7.1 rpg (leads team, 5th AAC), 3.2 blocks/game (5th NCAA), 80% FG (1st AAC, would-be 1st in NCAA if he made 5 or more per game). He hasn’t had a truly monster game yet, but has ben phenomenally consistent offensively, even despite his scuffles at the line.
  • Aubrey Dawkins. 15.7 ppg (2nd team), 5.6 rpg (2nd team), 47/36/81 splits. After an on-and-off start, Aubrey found his slot in the offense in his first season, putting up a huge performance at UConn (9/13, 23 points, 4 rebounds) in the Knights’ win and picking up conference player of the week honors in the process.

Who’s Stepped It Up

Terrell Allen
Derek Warden
  • Terrell Allen. 8.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 4.8 apg (5th AAC), 50% 3FG. Head coach Johnny Dawkins put Allen at the point to give B.J. Taylor some added space and ease the ball-handling load, and the move has worked wonders. Allen runs the show while B.J. is able to pick his spots and take over in crunch time.
  • Collin Smith. 7.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg (3rd on the team). The 6-11 transfer from George Washington has given UCF the added size it needed at the 4, starting 13 of 14 games so far, and has moved over to the 5 when called upon. He has been a formidable presence augmenting Tacko in the interior, particularly on the boards.

Who’s Good in The American This Year

  • Houston Cougars (15-1, 2-1 AAC, 9th NET). The Cougars have surprised everyone in the absence of the graduated Rob Ford, reeling off their first 15 games, including wins at BYU and Oklahoma State, as well as at home over LSU and Oregon. The Cougs have turned up the defense this year, being 9th in the nation in scoring defense (60 ppg) and second in FG% defense (36.3%). Offensively, Houston has been led by the guard combo of Corey Davis, Jr. (15.2 ppg) and Armoni Brooks (14.3 ppg). Their winning streak stopped in a tight, intense ball game at...
  • Temple Owls (12-3, 2-1 AAC, 41st NET). The Owls handed Houston their first loss of the year last week and have also surprised the likes of Georgia, Cal and Mizzou, with their only losses to Villanova, VCU and UCF. Fran Dunphy’s squad prides itself on defense, being top-15 in the nation in Turnover Margin and 12th in steals per contest. Senior G Shizz Alston, Jr. is the Owls’ leading scorer at 18.9 ppg (2nd AAC), with Junior F Quinton Rose also posting 16.8 ppg.
  • Cincinnati Bearcats (13-3, 2-1 AAC, 37th NET). Sensing a trend yet with these teams in The American? Mick Cronin’s Bearcats continue to maul everyone they come across, giving up just 59.6 ppg (7th in the nation) and coming in 22nd in turnover margin (+4.3/game). Junior G Jarron Cumberland has led the way at 16.6 ppg.

Despite that, SBNation’s Bracketologist Chris Dobbertean thinks The American may only be a one- or two-bid league when all is said and done.

Big Games Coming Up

UCF’s schedule is heavily backloaded the rest of the way with only two games left against teams at .500 or worse, and 12 remaining against AAC teams in the NET Top 130.

It gets really brutal starting in February:

UCF Men’s Basketball’s Remaining Schedule

Date H/A Opponent Record (1/11) NET (1/11)
Date H/A Opponent Record (1/11) NET (1/11)
13-Jan H ECU 8-7 229
16-Jan A Wichita State 7-7 129
19-Jan H Tulsa 11-5 90
23-Jan A Tulane 4-11 302
27-Jan A Memphis 10-6 75
31-Jan H UConn 10-6 91
7-Feb H Houston 15-1 9
10-Feb A SMU 10-5 138
13-Feb H S. Fla. 12-3 100
16-Feb H Memphis 10-6 75
21-Feb A Cincinnati 13-3 37
24-Feb H SMU 10-5 138
27-Feb A S. Fla. 12-3 100
2-Mar A Houston 15-1 9
7-Mar H Cincinnati 13-3 37
9-Mar A Temple 12-3 41
Records and NET Ranking are as of January 11, 2019.

Outlook

Despite being picked in the preseason to win The American, UCF has only an 18.5% chance to win the conference tournament and a 25.8% chance to win the conference in the regular season, according to TeamRankings.com.

The Knights do have an 88% chance of making the NCAA Tournament at this moment, and a projected record of 23-7, also according to TeamRankings.com.

Who to Follow

Our guys at UCF Men’s Basketball this year will primarily be Brian Murphy (@Spokes_Murphy) and Luke Sarris (@LukeSarrisSBN). But you can follow all of the latest with UCF Men’s Hoops, as well as around The American, on this Twitter List: