By Andrew Cherico
Orlando, FL- The Knights conclude non-conference play at 9-3 as they prepare to play their first BIG 12 opponent on the road at Kansas St. on 1/6/2024. There were many ups and downs for the Knights during preseason play, but a lot was learned about this basketball team.
To begin, a positive Jaylin Sellers has come out and surprised everyone, exceeding expectations and solidifying himself as one of the best players on this team. He is averaging a team-high 18.6 points per game and an impressive 4.5 rebounds per game. There will be some games where Jaylin Sellers may need to lead the team with his abilities. Moving onto a negative, the loss to Stetson really hurt the team's reputation early on and negated a 10-2 preseason, which would’ve included two very respectable losses to Miami and Ole Miss to a 9-3 preseason that included a loss on a buy game.
The upcoming schedule for the Knights remains no joke. UCF is in the toughest conference in all of college basketball and currently has eight-ranked opponents, which leads them to have one of the strongest schedules in the NCAA. Also, not to forget, there are still 10 new players on this team.
Although the Knights have a tough road ahead of them, Head Coach Johnny Dawkins and his players are not intimidated, as he believes they belong in the big leagues and believes his guys will compete night in and night out.
When Coach Dawkins was asked about entering the BIG 12 and the expectations that came with it, he stated, "We'll be competitive in the BIG 12... We belong; there’s a reason why we’re there; it’s because we belong there.”
UCF Men’s Basketball Guard Shemarri Allen said this when asked about being predicted to finish at the bottom of the BIG 12. "A lot of people at first count us out, but we’ll soon prove them wrong; we have a chip on our shoulder at the end of the day.”
UCF men’s basketball guard and leading scorer Jaylin Sellers says this when asked about UCF’s predicted ranking: "Nothing was ever given; it really doesn’t bother me; it only makes the chip deeper on my shoulder and also on my team, so I just feel like it’s only going to motivate us.”
This is a Knights team that is highly motivated and a team that knows their identity is mainly focused on defense, which is displayed by UCF being a top 15 school in blocks per game in the nation. This UCF men’s basketball team is very unpredictable, and they will lose plenty of games. Fans expected win-and win games; everyone thought they had no chance at winning, but that’s basketball in general!
My prediction is that the Knights will go 6-12 in conference play tonight, bringing them out to 15-15 overall. What are your predictions? Do you have surprise wins on it? Let us know, and I’ll see you on the sidelines!