In the last basketball roundtable of the men’s basketball season, Jeff Sharon, Jeremy Brener and Brian Murphy take their seats at the roundtable to answer questions on the UCF Knights ahead of their NCAA First Round game.
Men’s Basketball takes on the VCU Rams in Columbia, South Carolina at approximately 9:40 PM EST on CBS.
1. What is the biggest key to victory for the Knights?
Jeff Sharon: To me it’s going to come down to dominating the inside. Both teams are solid on defense, but VCU’s strength is their backcourt. Even if Marcus Evans is limited, it’s going to be a tough night for Terrell Allen and B.J. Taylor in terms of getting to the rack. So the big fellas have to take up the slack.
Jeremy Brener: It’s going to come down to which team can play their style best. VCU loves to shoot, and UCF loves to play inside. Whichever team can play their brand of basketball best will win the game.
Brian Murphy: Ball handling. The VCU Rams have one of the most advantageous defenses in the nation, getting much of their offense from the 16 turnovers they force per game. While this VCU team doesn’t create as much “Havoc” as those Shaka Smart squads from a few years ago, the Rams do press often. And we know UCF had has problems with press defenses -- just look at both of their losses at Memphis. Terrell Allen and B.J. Taylor will need to be smart with the ball on every trip that follows a VCU bucket.
2. Who is the X-Factor for UCF?
Jeff Sharon: Tacko Fall. This is his moment, and aside from the big stage, only one player on VCU’s regular rotation is taller than 6-8, and he plays seven minutes a game. So it’s time for Tacko to dominate the way we always thought he could.
Jeremy Brener: BJ Taylor. The team has a better winning percentage when Taylor plays better and in March, guard play reigns supreme. Taylor has struggled in the last few games, and if he brings that similar play, the Knights will have no chance. They need to be able to hit on all cylinders during the tourney and it starts with Taylor.
Brian Murphy: Strength: Size. Chad Brown is as tall as the tallest player in VCU’s starting lineup. So, the Rams are going to have their hands full with Tacko Fall and Collin Smith. It’s imperative that the Knights find ways to get the ball to those guys consistently.
Weakness: Free-throw shooting. In a matchup between two defense-first squads, this one is pretty much destined to be a close game. Points will be at a premium -- the over-under is just 126.5 -- and if the Knights are leading late, they will need to be better from the line than their season-long free-throw percentage, which ranks 333rd in the country.
3. If UCF loses, what will be the reason?
Jeff Sharon: It’ll be a few reasons, but the primary one will be too many turnovers by the backcourt. If Terrell Allen can’t take care of the ball, it’s going to be a long, painful night.
Jeremy Brener: UCF will lose because VCU will either be stupid hot or what is more likely, they find a way to take Tacko Fall out of the game. That’s probably my biggest concern. If VCU gets Tacko in foul trouble, it could be a long night for UCF.
The good thing for the Knights is the significant size advantage. The Knights have three players bigger than everyone on VCU’s roster. It’s certainly an advantage that the Knights must exploit, and if they don’t, they won’t come out on top.
Brian Murphy: Too many turnovers.
Poor shooting from the line.
Tacko Fall gets into foul trouble.
VCU’s Marcus Evans plays as if he is fully healthy.
The Rams suddenly get hot from 3-point range, because weird things happen in the tourney.
4. Where would a win put this on all-time favorite UCF sports moments for you?
Jeff Sharon: I’m not really sure. I was there for our last two conference titles in 2004 and 2005, so those are tops for me. I think this would be in third. But if the Knights get to the next round and face Duke...Just stop me before I get too far ahead of myself.
Jeremy Brener: For basketball, it is definitely #1. Maybe storming the court for the Cincy game earlier this month is there, but definitely #1 for basketball. UCF is still a football school, but it is not just a football school.
Brian Murphy: I don’t think anything can top being present for the 2017 college football game of the year -- USF at UCF on Black Friday. That had the most chill-inducing moments for me.
But I think a win over VCU would be in my top three moments. Not only because it would be the program’s first in the NCAA Tournament, but getting such a win for these seniors -- especially B.J. Taylor and Tacko Fall -- would cement them as inner-circle UCF athletics legends. And, again, being present for that moment would enhance its impact on me.
So, yeah, top three.
Somewhat related: I will say that I have never been this excited to cover a UCF athletics event. That includes either of the past two bowl games.
5. Score prediction.
Jeff Sharon: UCF 74, VCU 67
Jeremy Brener: UCF 64, VCU 58
Brian Murphy: I said 70-63, UCF, on our Thursday preview podcast. That would be well over the O/U number, but, hey, it’s the tournament. You never know.