The 12-seed Knights take on the 5-seed Arizona State Sun Devils in Coral Gables, Florida at 7:00 PM EST.
1. What is the biggest key to victory for the Knights?
Jeff Sharon: Arizona State is the best scoring defense in the Pac-12, and UCF is the second-best in The American. Points will be at a premium. So it’s going to come down to typical close-game stuff: foul shooting, limiting turnovers, etc. Whoever does the little things will win the game, plain and simple.
Jeremy Brener: Getting Kay Kay Wright involved quick and often. If Kay Kay is hot, then the team is hot. Her energy is contagious and sets the tone for the team. If they can do that early, watch out.
Breanna Sorensen: Kay Kay is an extreme offensive threat for the Knights. In order for the Knights to be able to get shots off they will not only need KayKay’s assists, but her to be on top of her offensive game as well.
2. What is the biggest strength and weakness for UCF?
Jeff Sharon: The biggest strength is clearly their experience. With six seniors in the rotation, they’ve seen it all and won’t be blinded by the lights. Their weakness, however, is the lack of scoring outside of Kay Kay Wright. UCF is in the high 200s in the national rankings in assist-to-turnover ratio, largely because she shoulders the scoring load, and as a team UCF and tends to give it away a bit too much for my liking.
Jeremy Brener: The biggest strength is the team’s defense. UCF prides itself on defense, and their defense often times turns into their offense. Their weakness is their lack of shooting outside Kay Kay Wright. Sydnee McDonald is the only distance shooter, and because the team rarely shoots outside, their ability to come back from large deficits suffers.
Breanna Sorensen: The Knights biggest strength is the strong Senior presence out on the court. Kay Kay has been with Coach Abe since day one, Senior Kayla Thigpen has also played a vital role this season. Biggest weakness for the Knights is by far their ability to get shots in. Over the last few games they have struggled with getting a shot off before the shot clock counts down and settle for last-second shots.
3. If UCF loses, what will be the reason?
Jeff Sharon: Turnovers and fast-break opportunities. They must take care of the ball. Arizona State doesn’t take care of the ball very well themselves, so that’s one way you can keep them in the game.
Jeremy Brener: If the Knights fall short tonight, it’s because the team is unable to generate enough offense.
Breanna Sorensen: If UCF loses it will be because they weren’t able to get shots off due to Arizona State’s defense.
4. Outside of Kay Kay Wright, who needs to step up for UCF?
Jeff Sharon: I want to see Sydnee McDonald score the ball more from outside. She’s the Knights’ leading three-point shooter, but has only made 55 on the year at a 32% clip (by comparison, the national leader, Idaho’s Taylor Pierce, has 138). She’s a senior, so if Kay Kay can get the drive-and-kick game going with Syd, the Knights could turn this into a runaway.
Jeremy Brener: Nyala Shuler and Masseny Kaba are the team’s best rebounders, and they must crash the boards often to keep UCF in the game.
Breanna Sorensen: Outside of Kay Kay, Senior Nyala Shuler needs to step up with rebounding and blocks. Ny is extremely smart down low and even though she isn’t the biggest Forward on the floor, she is smart enough to out-rebound the big dogs.
5. Score prediction.
Jeff Sharon: UCF 61, Arizona State 58. The 12-seed strikes again!
Jeremy Brener: UCF 59, Arizona State 57. All glory to the Knights!
Breanna Sorensen: UCF 65, Arizona State 63. Let’s get it, ladies!