On Monday, November 6th, the UCF Knights men’s basketball team will start a new era, marking its first season as a member of the toughest basketball conference in the country, the Big 12.
UCF will be doing so after a bizarre last season in The American, that saw them lose a nearly comical number of one-possession games, but still end the year on a positive note with a win over Florida in the NIT.
Now comes a new challenge in Year One of the Big 12 Era. Here’s everything you need to know about the Knights as they start their campaign:
19-15 (8-10 AAC), 7th place in The American
Postseason: Lost in NIT Second Round to Oregon
The Knights' final season in the AAC looked promising at first. The team started off the season 13-4, with wins over teams like Memphis, Florida State and Ole Miss, as well as winning the Bahamas Championship tournament by defeating Santa Clara and Oklahoma State.
However, a string of key injuries — notably C. J. Walker, Darius Johnson, and Michael Durr — and unbelievably bad close-game luck — UCF was just 3-8 in games decided by one basket at the end of regulation — led to the Knights dropping key conference games Cincinnati, Temple, and No. 3 Houston, which ruined what at first looked like a team capable of making the NCAA Tournament. They would fall in the second round of the AAC Tournament to the eventual tournament champion, Memphis.
The Knights were still good enough to earn a spot in a postseason tournament for the first time since 2019. In the NIT, the Knights defeated the Florida Gators in the first round before falling to the Oregon Ducks in the second round.
The most notable highlight of the year was when freshman forward Taylor Hendricks became the first-ever Knight to be drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft, the first-ever Knight to be selected as a lottery pick, and the first-ever Knight to go one-and-done.
Picked last out of 14 teams in the Big 12
The Knights are heading into the season as, well, underdogs. They were picked dead last by the media in the Big 12 preseason poll.
Three of the new teams in the Big 12 were picked in the bottom four of the conference. The only one that wasn’t was Houston, who was picked second behind Kansas.
Who’s in Charge
Johnny Dawkins — 8th Season at UCF
Coach Dawkins enters his eighth season at UCF with plans to prove that this team belongs in the Big 12.
He has led the Knights to a winning season in all but one year and earned an overall record of 131-87. He has also led the Knights to three postseason appearances, including last season’s NIT berth, where the Knights got their first-ever victory over Florida in Gainesville in the first round.
What to Watch for
Last year was weird for the Knights on offense. They finished 21st in the country in free throw percentage, 29th in three-point percentage, but an abysmal 282nd in overall field goal percentage.
Despite having a defense that finished in the top 50 in points allowed (65.5/game) and turnovers forced (14.8), they could not get a defensive rebound to save their lives, finishing 280th in defensive rebounding (23.4).
Who to Watch
#21 C.J. Walker - Forward
A Sanford native and the first-ever 5-star recruit to play for UCF, Walker enters his fourth season at UCF looking to bounce back. He only played in four games last year before being shut down due to injuries. Walker’s absence was a key reason for the Knights’ struggles in the second half of the season.
Walker can help the Knight’s rebounding problem and is a major threat on offense. With all the new faces on the team, he is expected to be a team leader who can bring energy to the court.
#3 Darius Johnson - Guard
Johnson will be one of the key players for the Knights on offense. Despite injury problems, DJ started 22 of 25 games and had notable moments like dropping a career-high 24 points against eventual Final Four team Miami. He was also the team's leading free-throw shooter (86%).
#15 Tyler Hendricks - Guard
Hendricks is ready to step out of the shadow of his lottery-pick brother. The three-star recruit redshirted last season but is itching to fill in the shoes his twin brother Taylor left behind.
#22 Nils Machowski - Guard
Machowski spent several years playing in Germany’s top division for Alba Berlin. It will be interesting to see what that experience brings the table when he suits up for the Knights.
Who We’ll Miss
#25 Taylor Hendricks - Forward
There are a lot of ways to describe how good Hendricks was for UCF. You could bring up how he was a member of the AAC All-Freshman team or a member of the All-AAC Second Team. But the biggest indicator was going 9th overall in the NBA Draft to the Utah Jazz.
#12 Ithiel Horton - Guard
Horton’s outside shooting (35% from downtown) and defense (2.7 steals per game) kept UCF in a lot of the close games they played last season. He left for Texas, still within the conference, which really hurts.
#13 C. J. Kelly - Guard/Forward
Kelly put the Knights on his back late in the season, averaging 13.3 points and 39% from three-point range last year.
#2 Michael Durr - Center
Durr was one of the team's best defenders, averaging 4.6 blocks per game, the second-most on the team, and that was despite missing time due to injury. UCF’s defensive numbers were severely hurt by his absence, as the Knights lost 5 in a row during an eight-game stretch where he was absent.
UCF Men’s Basketball 2023-24 Roster
|Tyler Hendricks||Returner (RS)||Fr||G||6-5||UCF||REDSHIRTED|
|Charlie May||Returner (RS)||Fr||G||6-5||UCF||REDSHIRTED|
|Michael Kalina||Returner (RS)||Fr||G||6-1||UCF||REDSHIRTED|
|Ibrahima Diallo||Transfer||5Y||F||7-0||San Jose State||17.3||6.0||6.0||0.5||0.3||1.7||59%||0%||52%|
|DeMarr Langford Jr.||Transfer||Sr||G||6-5||Boston College||29.2||7.0||2.8||1.8||0.4||0.3||44%||26%||71%|
|Marchelus Avery||Transfer||Sr||F||6-7||New Mexico State||18.3||8.2||4.5||0.9||0.5||0.2||47%||42%||63%|
|Jaylin Sellers||Transfer||Jr||G||6-4||Ball State||29.9||13.5||3.7||0.8||0.7||0.5||49%||45%||76%|
|Comeh Emuobor||Incoming Fr||Fr||G||6-5||Brewster Academy (NC)||INCOMING FRESHMAN|
|Nils Machowski||Incoming Fr||Fr||G||6-3||Germany||INCOMING FRESHMAN|
|Mintautas Mockus||Incoming Fr||Fr||F||6-7||Lithuania||INCOMING FRESHMAN|
- 7 Fifth-Years and Seniors
- 6 returners
- 5 transfers
- 3 incoming freshmen
- 5 Floridians
- 5 International players (Germany, Guinea, Lithuania, Senegal, Thailand)
UCF Men’s Basketball 2023-24 Schedule
|Date||Day||H/A||Opponent||Conference||22-23 Record||22-23 NET||Last Season|
|Date||Day||H/A||Opponent||Conference||22-23 Record||22-23 NET||Last Season|
|Nov 6||Mon||H||FIU||C-USA||12-18||216||7th C-USA|
|Nov 10||Fri||A||Miami||ACC||29-8||21||Won ACC Reg Season, L ACC Semis, L Final Four (UConn)|
|Nov 16||Thu||H||Cal State Fullerton||Big West||18-13||126||4th Big West, L BWC Championship (UCSB)|
|Nov 19||Sun||N||South Dakota St.||Summit||18-13||162||2nd Summit League, L Summit Semis (NDSU)|
|Nov 20||Mon||N||Charlotte or George Mason||AAC/A-10||22-14/20-13||98/139||UNCC: 5th C-USA, Won CBI Tournament | GMU: 5th A-10|
|Nov 26||Sun||H||Stetson||ASUN||15-14||163||4th ASUN, L ASUN Qtrs (Lipscomb)|
|Dec 2||Sat||H||Lipscomb||ASUN||17-13||147||5th ASUN, L ASUN Semis (Kennesaw)|
|Dec 6||Wed||H||Jacksonville||ASUN||10-16||233||11th ASUN, DNQ ASUN Tournament|
|Dec 10||Sun||H||Ole Miss||SEC||12-21||129||13th SEC, L SEC 2nd Round (Tennessee)|
|Dec 18||Mon||H||Maine||Am. East||11-17||273||7th AEC, L AEC Qtrs (UMass Lowell)|
|Dec 21||Thu||H||Florida A&M||SWAC||5-22||359||11th SWAC, DNQ SWAC Tournament|
|Dec 29||Fri||H||Bethune-Cookman||SWAC||10-20||349||7th SWAC, L SWAC Qtrs (Grambling)|
|Jan 6||Sat||A||Kansas State||Big 12||26-10||19||T-3rd Big 12, L Big 12 Qtrs (TCU), L Elite 8 (FAU)|
|Jan 10||Wed||H||Kansas||Big 12||28-8||9||Won Big 12 Reg Season, L Big 12 Final (Texas), L NCAA 2nd Round (Arkansas)|
|Jan 13||Sat||H||BYU||Big 12||17-15||84||5th WCC, L WCC Semis (St. Mary's)|
|Jan 17||Wed||A||Texas||Big 12||29-9||7||2nd Big 12, Won Big 12 Tournament, L Elite 8 (Miami)|
|Jan 20||Sat||A||Houston||Big 12||33-4||1||Won AAC Regular Season, L AAC Final (Memphis), L Sweet 16 (Miami)|
|Jan 23||Tue||H||West Virginia||Big 12||19-15||24||8th Big 12, L Big 12 Qtrs (Kansas), L NCAA 1st Round (Maryland)|
|Jan 27||Sat||A||Cincinnati||Big 12||22-13||63||4th AAC, L AAC Semis (Houston), L NIT Qtrs (Utah Valley)|
|Jan 31||Wed||H||Baylor||Big 12||23-11||17||T-3rd Big 12, L Big 12 Qtrs (Iowa St.), L NCAA 2nd Round (Creighton)|
|Feb 3||Sat||H||Oklahoma||Big 12||15-17||70||T-Last Big 12, L Big 12 1st Round (Oklahoma St.)|
|Feb 10||Sat||A||Texas Tech||Big 12||16-16||62||T-Last Big 12, L Big 12 1st Round (WVU)|
|Feb 13||Tue||A||BYU||Big 12||17-15||84||5th WCC, L WCC Semis (St. Mary's)|
|Feb 17||Sat||H||Cincinnati||Big 12||22-13||63||4th AAC, L AAC Semis (Houston), L NIT Qtrs (Utah Valley)|
|Feb 20||Tue||A||West Virginia||Big 12||19-15||24||8th Big 12, L Big 12 Qtrs (Kansas), L NCAA 1st Round (Maryland)|
|Feb 24||Sat||H||Texas Tech||Big 12||16-16||62||T-Last Big 12, L Big 12 1st Round (WVU)|
|Feb 28||Wed||A||Oklahoma State||Big 12||20-16||42||7th Big 12, L Big 12 Qtrs (Texas), L NIT Qtrs (North Texas)|
|Mar 2||Sat||H||Iowa State||Big 12||19-14||25||T-5th Big 12, L Big 12 Semis (Kansas), L NCAA 1st Round (Pitt)|
|Mar 6||Wed||H||Houston||Big 12||33-4||1||Won AAC Regular Season, L AAC Final (Memphis), L Sweet 16 (Miami)|
|Mar 9||Sat||A||TCU||Big 12||22-13||27||T-5th Big 12, L Big 12 Semis (Texas), L NCAA 2nd Round (Gonzaga)|
All twelve non-conference games will be played in the state of Florida. The most notable games in that slate will be against Ole Miss and Miami but don’t sleep on South Dakota State either.
As for the conference schedule, the Knights are scheduled to face some of the most legendary programs in college basketball, including teams like Baylor and Kansas who won the NCAA tournament within the last three years. They will also face some teams they should be familiar with from their time in the AAC, Cincinnati, and Houston.
Big 12 Conference Tournament
- March 12th-16th in Kansas City
- The top six teams receive a bye to the quarterfinals
The Last Time...
UCF won a postseason game: Last year.
I bet you forgot this one, didn’t you? Let’s remember it:
UCF faces FIU in the opener on November 6th.