Welcome to Part 3 of Black & Gold Banneret’s three-part series previewing the 2021-22 UCF Knights Men’s Basketball season, featuring CBS and ESPN basketball analyst and former UCF Knight Mike O’Donnell.
Today, we close out our season preview with some final insights from Mike on the UCF Knights Men’s Basketball team.
What style of play should fans expect to see with this team?
Don’t expect to see any major changes to what you’re used to seeing from UCF basketball. However, you should expect to see a much improved defense. That much-improved defense will lead to more transition opportunities. Those increased transition opportunities should lead to more open looks from long range, which should make someone like Darin Green, Jr. salivate.
Brandon Mahan and Darius Perry should lead the offensive charge; Mahan being the best one-on-one player on the roster, and Perry conducting the offense. The team returns almost all of the scoring production from last year, and for a team that finished last season on a 5-1 run, chemistry should allow them to pick up right where they left off last March.
UCF was picked to finish 5th in the AAC. What is their likely seed for the AAC Tournament, and could that be enough for an at-large bid?
The American’s top four teams should be experiencing the Madness this March. Houston is the clear #1, and Memphis is filling its roster with future lottery picks and is comfortably in the second seat.
That leaves UCF, SMU, and Wichita State to battle for the 3rd and 4th spots. The unlucky 5th seed can take consolation in an NIT bid.
What will be this team’s strength?
If the first two parts of this preview didn’t give it away, the major strength of this team is its depth. Johnny Dawkins could have the luxury of a 12-man rotation, if he wanted to. The freshmen and JuCo transfer are all talented enough to earn minutes. In short, this is the DEEPEST TEAM IN UCF BASKETBALL HISTORY.
The other major strength is the individual talent. This team has three players that could make All-Conference lists at the end of the season. Brandon Mahan excels in one-on-one situations, Darius Perry is the straw that stirs the drink, and Isaiah Adams will probably be in the NBA in a couple years’ time. Add in C.J. Walker’s athleticism and defense, and Darin Green, Jr’s sharpshooting, and this team is loaded.
Finish this sentence: If UCF can _______, they will have a great season.
This is simple: Stay healthy. If the starting five don’t have to miss time for injuries, then slowing this team down will be incredibly difficult.
What home games should fans should circle on their calendars (and get their butts to the arena for)?
- Nov. 10th - Robert Morris. This team reloaded in the off-season, and has the most underrated backcourt in the Horizon League. This isn’t an SEC football non-conferece game — This is a legit opponent.
- Nov. 27th - Oklahoma. OU is a perennial tournament team, and this is the day after the War on I-4. Thanks to supply chain issues, Black Friday weekend deals will already be gone, so there’s no excuse to miss this game. If the USF game is the shot, consider this the chaser to a great weekend of UCF sports.
- Dec. 30th - Michigan. Juwan Howard has the Wolverines as one of the favorites to win it all this year, and will be making their return trip to Orlando this season.
- Jan. 12th - Memphis:. Long gone are the days of the Tigers coming to Orlando and winning by 30 or 40 points. This game could have serious implications on postseason play.
- Jan. 29th - Houston. The Cougars are the odds-on favorite to win the conference.
- Feb. 23rd - Cincinnati. This is Senior Knight, and if we really are looking at one of the greatest teams and seasons in UCF history, they deserve to go out with a raucous crowd behind them.
What are your preseason superlatives?
Most Valuable Player: Darius Perry
Most Improved Player: Jamille Reynolds
Newcomer of the Year: Cheikh Mbacke Diong
Glue Guy: Sean Mobley
Fan Favorite (a.k.a. the Chad Brown Award): Isaiah Adams
Huge thanks to Mike O’Donnell for taking time out of his busy schedule to sit down and talk with us about this upcoming season. Be sure to tune in to ESPN and CBS Sports to hear him offering his expertise and insight on broadcasts all season long.