Welcome to The Sports Bank’s fourth annual college basketball season preview series where we break 111 teams in the 111 days leading up to the opening tip-off of the 2013-2014 season. We will rank the 84 power conference teams (including the new Big East and American Athletic Conferences) and top 27 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order. We’ll break down rosters, transfers, incoming freshmen, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.
The Central Florida Knights are moving on up from Conference USA to the new American Athletic Conference. UCF failed to turn the corner of mediocrity while in their old home and making that turn will only be more difficult against the improved competition of the AAC.
CENTRAL FLORIDA KNIGHTS
Last Season: T-4th, 9-7 in CUSA, 20-11 overall
Predicted AAC Finish: 8th
Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Eugene McRory (Jr)/Staphon Blair (So)/Dylan Karrell (So)/Justin McBride (Fr)
F: Tristan Spurlock (Sr)
F: Kasey Wilson (Jr)/Steve Haney (Fr)
SG: Isaiah Sykes (Sr)/Matt Williams (So)
PG: Calvin Newell (Sr)/Daiquan Walker (So)/Brandon Goodwin (Fr)
Gone: F/C-Keith Clanton, G/F-Rod Days (transfer-Campbell)
UCF’s chances almost took a major hit when do-it-all combo guard Isaiah Sykes flirted with leaving school and entering the NBA Draft. Sykes wisely decided to return for his senior season and will carry even more weight on his shoulders due to the graduation of Keith Clanton.
Clanton’s exit means returning starters Tristan Spurlock, Kasey Wilson, and Calvin Newell must step up their games. Spurlock and Wilson are each effective outside shooters, versatile, and interchange at the forward position. Newell is technically the starting point guard but spends a good amount of his court time deferring to Sykes.
The fifth starting spot and hole in the middle left by Clanton is a major question mark. Stephon Blair would appear to be the favorite even though he played just seven minutes a game last year. However, JUCO transfer Eugene McRory seems ready to make a major splash and whether or not he is in the starting five, figures to be a key contributor right away since Dylan Karrell isn’t ready to step into a major role and 6-10, 310 pound freshman Justin McBride has to improve his conditioning before seeing anything close to a meaningful minute.
There is quality depth on the wing with sophomore guards Matt Williams and Daiquan Walker. Each guy was a solid contributor during their freshman campaigns and a lack of depth inside might lead Donnie Jones to use a smaller lineup. Freshmen Steven Haney and Brandon Goodwin will fight to earn minutes as well.
The Central Florida Knights will be very dependent on their wing play this season due to the uncertainty of their post game. Considering this team has had issues the past couple of years getting past teams like UTEP, Southern Miss, and Tulsa; I can’t imagine them being ready to knock off the likes of Louisville, UConn, Memphis, Cincinnati, or Temple on a consistent basis.
Player to Watch: Isaiah Sykes
Sykes was the only player in college basketball last year to average at least 16 points, 7 boards, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals per game. He is a stat stuffer and one of the more unheralded all-around players in the country. Sykes does tend to force the issue too often though and that figures to be the case again this year since UCF will put the ball in hands, and rely on his ability to create until they find someone to step into Clanton’s number two scoring role.
Key Non-Conference Games:
vs. Florida State
OTHER 111 IN 111′S:
#95 Seton Hall
#97 George Mason
#99 Penn State
#101 West Virginia
#102 South Florida
#103 Mississippi State
#105 South Carolina
#106 Texas Tech
#108 Virginia Tech
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu to Milwaukee. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet , AND the second most accurate 2013 NBA Mock Draft. (Yup, nearly 3peat champ… #humblebrag.)