Welcome to The Sports Bank’s third annual college basketball season preview series. Two years we looked at 99 teams in 99 days. Last year, we were slightly more aggressive and expanded to 111 teams in 111 days and will do so again as we look ahead to the 2012-2013 season.
We will rank the 75 power conference teams and top 36 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 have fallen on hard times as of late. With the recent ruling by the NCAA which bans UCF from post-season play due to major recruiting violations, Donnie Jones has seen three players leave the program including Marcus Jordan. As a result, the Knights dropped from 49th to 93rd in my rankings.
CENTRAL FLORIDA KNIGHTS
Last Season: T-3rd, 10-6 in C-USA, 22-11 overall
Predicted C-USA Finish: 4th
Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Keith Clanton (Sr)/Staphon Blair (Fr)/Dylan Karell (Fr)
F: Tristan Spurlock (Jr)/Kasey Wilson (So)
G/F: Rod Days (So)
SG: Isaiah Sykes (So)/Matt Williams (Fr)
PG: Daiquan Walker (Fr)/Calvin Newell (Jr)
Gone: PG-A.J. Rompza, PF-P.J. Gaynor, PF-Dwight McCombs, SG-Marcus Jordan, F/C-Josh Crittle (transfer-UIC), PG-C.J. Reed (transfer-Georgia Southern), F-Wayne Martin (transfer-SE Missouri State)
Besides Jordan, UCF also loses Bethune-Cookman transfer C.J. Reed who sat out last season but was expected to be an integral part of the team this season and the physical Josh Crittle. Jordan is remaining at the school but won’t play basketball while Reed and Crittle are allowed to transfer and become immediately eligible per NCAA rules. Reed will end up playing for his dad at Georgia Southern.
Jones almost lost the team’s top scorer and rebounder from a year ago, Keith Clanton which would have been a crushing blow for the team. Clanton displayed some incredible loyalty by finishing up his career at UCF despite teams like Kentucky and Florida State expressing serious interest in acquiring his services.
Starting forward Tristan Spurlock also returns and will provide some length and athleticism up-front but is still raw as an all-around offensive player. Kasey Wilson will play a larger role off the bench this year while the team’s top recruit, Staphon Blair will bring physicality and effort to the floor. 6-11 freshman Dylan Karell gives Jones another option inside and while he only weighs 205 pounds, can cause issues with his length and athleticim.
With Jordan and Reed not returning to the floor, Isaiah Sykes will be the featured option on the wing. He isn’t a great outside shooter but does know how to use his athleticism and strength to get to the bucket. Seldom used a year ago, Rod Days is the favorite to start on the wing alongside Sykes with newcomer Matt Williams the only other real option to play the two or three.
Oklahoma transfer Calvin Newell will assume the point guard duties with one catch; he won’t become eligible until after first semester. That means freshman Daiquan Walker will be thrust into that role at the start of the season. Walker possesses the same attributes as most Philly guards; toughness, competitiveness, and quickness off the bounce. He will suffer some bumps along the road and early growing pains but it will benefit him and the Knights in the long haul.
UCF’s final go-around in Conference USA will be intriguing to watch as the program gets ready to transition to the Big East. There won’t be a postseason or Michael Jordan watching from the stands or any real chance of contending for the C-USA crown. Still, better days lie ahead for a program that could have really made some noise prior to the stiff penalties and exodus of veteran players.
Player to Watch: Keith Clanton
Transferring to a bigger program with a chance at more national recognition and opportunity to dance would have been the easy way out for Clanton. Instead, he remains in Orlando to cap off what has been one of the better careers for any Knight in program history. His leadership, size, and ability to score down low will all be critical this season for a thin UCF roster.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/10 at South Florida
11/23 at Florida
1/2 vs. South Florida
OTHER 111 IN 111’S:
#94 Old Dominion Monarchs
#95 Oregon Ducks
#96 LSU Tigers
#97 South Carolina Gamecocks
#98 Seton Hall Pirates
#99 Georgia Bulldogs
#100 DePaul Blue Demons
#101 Boston College Eagles
#102 Penn State Nittany Lions
#103 Arizona State Sun Devils
#104 Virginia Tech Hokies
#105 Texas Tech Red Raiders
#106 Auburn Tigers
#107 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
#108 TCU Horned Frogs
#109 Mississippi State Bulldogs
#110 Utah Utes
#111 Nebraska Cornhuskers
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. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet (Yup, repeat champ… #humblebrag.)
You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.