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Let’s Examine UCF’s NCAA Tournament Chances

Knights are squarely on the bubble, but control their own destiny.

Tacko Fall
Tacko Fall
Derek Warden

After last Thursday’s tough loss at Cincinnati, the UCF Knights remain solidly in the conversation for a at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. However, sentiment among experts is all over the map:

So what’s the real consensus here?

NET Rankings

First, UCF is 34th in the NET rankings as of games through February 26th.

Let’s look at UCF’s upcoming schedule, with each opponents’ NET ranking:

UCF’s Last Four Regular Season Games

Date Opponent Home/Away Record AAC Record NET Quadrant
Date Opponent Home/Away Record AAC Record NET Quadrant
Feb 27 South Florida Away 18-9 7-7 72 1
Mar 2 Houston Away 26-1 13-1 4 1
Mar 7 Cincinnati Home 23-4 12-2 25 1
Mar 9 Temple Away 20-8 10-5 56 1

This is a totally brutal stretch. All four games are NET Quadrant 1 games, meaning they are considered the toughest tier of opponents given those opponents’ strength and where the game is being played. That includes Wednesday night at South Florida, who is not in the NET Top 75.

So far, the Knights are 0-3 in Quadrant 1 games this year, with losses to Houston at home and at Cincy and Memphis. So unless they want to take their chances in the AAC Tournament in Memphis, the Knights have to pick up probably a couple of these games - most likely at South Florida (and hope they stay in the Top 75), and either at home against Cincy or at Temple - and preferably all three of those games. Of course, a win at Houston might obviate that condition outright.

Bracketologists

Pay attention to whatever bracketologist you want, but I prefer to look at them all on Bracket Matrix, which aggregates them all to spit out a field of 68.

Right now (as of 2/26), UCF is predicted to be an 11-seed, with an average seed of 11.4, and the Knights are included in 111 of the 118 brackets aggregated. In general, they are listed anywhere between a 9 and 12-seed.

The teams around them are (with their NET ranking):

  • 10-seeds: Texas (37), VCU (36, A-10 Champion), Ohio State (40), NC State (30)
  • 11-seeds: Florida (31), Arizona State (63), UCF (34), Temple (56)
  • 12-seeds: Seton Hall (64), Minnesota (60), Alabama (49), Utah State (33), Belmont (50, OVC Champion), Lipscomb (46, A-Sun Champion)

Mind you, no at-larges are listed beyond a 12-seed.

Of all these teams, right now, UCF has a higher NET than all of them except Florida, Utah State and NC State. But that’s also with the conference tournaments coming up, which could throw this whole thing into fractal chaos.

So what do the Knights have to do?

Well, it’s simple, really: Win.

But I’d say they must win at South Florida, and either the home game vs. Cincinnati or the road game at Temple. They could lop off either or maybe both of those with a win at Houston, but that’s a tall order.

Any way you slice it, the Knights are firmly on the bubble, but the one thing they have going for them is, unlike many other teams around them, they control their own destiny about as much as any team in the nation can at this point in the season.