Remember when the Central Florida Knights won their first fourteen games of the 2010-2011 season? That was fun. You know what wasn't fun for UCF fans? Following up that win streak with eight consecutive losses and finishing 6-10 in Conference USA. Which Knights team will we see this season?
This year's team will have a different look to it, with three transfers becoming eligible after sitting out last season. Former Illinois point guard Jeff Jordan joins his younger brother Marcus at UCF. Jeff is more of a true point guard who is effective as a distributor and defender but not a real scoring threat. He figures to compete with last year's starter A.J. Rompza who saw his production dip last season due to a decreased playing time.
Marcus led the Knight in points and assists last season and will start at the two. He is a talented all-around scorer but needs to improve his shot selection and decision making to take the next step in his game. Sophomore Isaiah Sykes is a versatile guard and will be a key reserve for UCF. He could even see some time at the point this year.
Sykes could also end up starting at small forward, if he beats out former Virginia Cavalier Tristan Spurlock. Spurlock was highly recruited coming out of high school but never truly fit in with Tony Bennett's style, resulting in his transfer to UCF. Spurlock has a nice combination of size and athleticism and could play some power forward, if Donnie Jones chooses to go with a smaller lineup. Freshman Rod Days might be the odd man out on the wing.
Keith Clanton will look to build off a solid sophomore campaign and anchor the frontcourt. Oregon transfer Josh Crittle is another big body inside who will likely compete with P.J. Gaynor and Dwight McCombs for starting spot alongside Clanton. McCombs is more of a true big man, while Gaynor is a versatile forward and capable of stretching defenses with his outside shot. Freshmen Wayne Martin and Kasey Wilson probably won't see much of the floor this season.
The frontcourt was supposed to get an even bigger boost with the arrival of freshman center Michael Chandler. However, Chandler did not qualify at UCF and will instead attend prep school this season. The Knights did pick up another transfer in Bethune-Cookman combo guard C.J. Reed, who was the MEAC Player of the Year last season, but he must sit out this year per NCAA rules.
After Memphis, Conference USA is up for grabs and there is no certainty that two teams will make the NCAA Tournament. On paper, UCF is the most talented of those teams but must hold off the always competitive UAB and Tulsa. A quick start would be very helpful, but this year the Knights must sustain their success during conference play.
Player to Watch: Keith Clanton, PF
Clanton has not received a lot of attention on the national scene but could get his due this season, if UCF plays up to their potential. At 6-9, 245 pounds, he can throw his body around inside and has a nice back-to-the-basket game. Clanton is also a much improved outside shooter, as he connected on nearly 38% of his triple tries a year ago.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/14 at Florida State
11/24 vs. Charleston (Battle 4 Atlantis)
11/25 vs. Florida State/UMass (Battle 4 Atlantis)
11/27 vs. UConn/UNC-Ashville/Harvard/Utah (Battle 4 Atlantis)