After UCF’s 49-38 home loss to No. 12 Cincinnati on Tuesday, junior guard B.J. Taylor expressed frustration with the loss, but vowed that the team would be better by March.
“We have good players in that locker room – good offensive players in that locker room,” Taylor said. “The offense is going to come for us. Teams don’t win in March from offense. They win from defense.
“As long as we keep our defense where it is our offense is going to get where it needs to be,” he continued.
However, for that March to matter at all the Knights have to figure out a way to stack wins now.
UCF now sits at 12-6 and 3-3 in American Athletic Conference (AAC) play. Last night’s game was Taylor’s, who was preseason first-team all-conference, first game back since injuring his foot in the first half of the season’s first game against Mercer. As a result the Knights haven’t been able to get the kinds of wins they’ve needed to stay in the NCAA tournament conversation.
Right now UCF has an RPI of 58 and a KenPom rating of 86. Their lone quality win was a road win at Alabama on Dec. 3. They’ve lost two in a row and head on the road for two games at USF and No. 7 Wichita St.
You add that to SMU, Temple and to a lesser extent, UConn, having disappointing starts to conference play and, simply put, UCF is running out of opportunities. The Committee will take into account the time Taylor missed due to injury. The Knights still have to justify any consideration by stacking wins.
That’s hard to do while they’re having trouble scoring. As Taylor gets better acclimated and his minutes increase, the Knights should, in theory, get better offensively.
That being said; UCF held Cincinnati to 15 first-half points and 49 overall in a home game and still lost. That’s because they shot 30 percent from the field and only had one more made field goal (15) than they had turnovers (14). It’s an offense that wasn’t explosive to begin with and played one of the better defensive teams in the country. Something that Knights’ head coach Johnny Dawkins admitted his team needed get up to speed on.
“For our guys it was a heck of a learning experience,” Dawkins said. “Facing a team like Cincy with guys in the backcourt as freshmen and sophomores having to kind of learn what its going to take to be competitive and win games like that in this league.
That learning curve needs to be expedited and Taylor is going to have to by dynamic down the stretch. If not, the most anticipated season in program history will end in another NIT berth.