UCF Basketball Roundtable: KnightNews Writers Debate Knights Basketball’s SeasonBasketball, Sports — By Staff on March 30, 2012 at 8:55 am Tweet
In what’s been a season-long trend, the KnightNews.com Sports Department has returned for the latest edition of the UCF Sports Roundtable- this time with a focus on UCF basketball team’s 2011-2012 season, which ended a couple of weeks ago in the first round of the NIT.
UCF fell short of expectations, but there were still some positives to take away from the 22-11 Knights.
KnightNews Sports Editor Allen Levin goes head-to-head, one-on-one with Nick Wilke in the sixth edition of the KnightNews.com Sports Roundtable.
Tell us who you think wins the debate by commenting, e-mailing us at email@example.com, or Tweeting us @KnightNewsSport
1. What happened to the Knights in the NIT?
Allen Levin: Simply put, the Knights were outplayed in all facets of the game. It was evident from beginning who was in control of the game as Drexel began with a 9-0 run out of the gates. UCF had to play a very good Drexel team, who probably should have been in the NCAA tournament, on the road, where the Knights struggled heavily this season (3-10).
UCF’s inconsistent offense struggled throughout the game, with Keith Clanton being the only Knights player to score in double figures with a whopping 12 points.
However, it was the Drexel three-point shooting that decimated UCF’s defensive and offensive flow, and ultimately led to the blow out. When your opponent shoots 50 percent overall, including 45 percent from deep, while you shot 38 percent and 26 percent from range, that won’t translate to wins.
Nick Wilke: First of all, Drexel should have been selected to be in the NCAA National Tournament instead of the NIT. Many of the college basketball analysts thought so also.
This was a very tough draw for UCF, and the Knights had to travel to play Drexel on their home court where they were 15-1 for the season. UCF never lead in the game. Drexel’s largest lead was up to 28. UCF could match Drexel for the first few minutes of the game, but then it turned into a blowout because UCF couldn’t contain Drexel guard Frantz Messenat, who finished with 18 points and 14 assists.
2. What do you make of the UCF Basketball team’s season as a whole?
AL: Overall, I’d say it was a solid year, but it still has to be considered a failure. There were high expectations for Coach Donnie Jones’ second year at the helm, and those expectations certainly weren’t the NITs.
The Knights had their sights set on March Madness, and due to a mini late-season collapse, they weren’t able to reach their goals. Boasting an 18-6 mark in early February, the Knights were poised to make the Tournament, before splitting their last six games, including a slip-up to Rice and a massacre at Memphis that ended their Big Dance hopes.
That being said, UCF did deal with tons of adversity, losing Dwight McCombs and Jeff Jordan midseason, while dealing with numerous other suspensions and hardships.
Still, I believe UCF should have been in the tournament this year, no questions asked. While it can’t be dismissed that UCF did finish 22-11 overall and 10-6 in the conference, including impressive wins over UConn and Memphis, the program and Knight Nation still, quite frankly, had an expectation of, well, more.
NW: The season was definitely not a failure. The Knights piled up 22 wins and won 10 games in Conference USA. UCF had so many different lineups this season, it was tough for Coach Jones to figure out his best lineup. A.J. Rompza was suspended for the first half of the season. PJ Gaynor, Marcus Jordan, and Josh Crittle were suspended a few times each.
And when Rompza came back, Jeff Jordan quit the team and Dwight McCombs was suspended for the rest of the season. The team had some big wins and some bad losses. I think they started real strong , but wore down at the end of the season.
3. Who was the team’s MVP?
AL: The name that comes to mind when you think UCF basketball MVP this season is Isaiah Sykes. His development was monumental and without that, the Knights would have been a much worse team this season. However, when you take a minute to think about it, the team’s most valuable player has to be Keith Clanton.
When Marcus Jordan suddenly went cold towards the end of the season, Clanton took on the unquestionable role as the Knights leading scorer and go-to offensive player. Big Cat finished as UCF’s leading scorer and rebounder at a 14.5 and 8.1 clip per game, respectively. He was named to the All-Conference-USA First Team, as well as named to the C-USA All-Defensive Team.
Clanton, along with Sykes, picked up the scoring load when Jordan’s scoring production dipped heavily towards the end of the year. Jordan scored 15 points or more only twice in the final 10 games, while shooting 33 percent (28-for-84) in those games. Without Clanton, the Knights are probably a .500 ball club.
NW: Sykes, because he could provide the Knights with so much. He was very valuable filling in for suspended players. I believe he played in every game, and played consistent throughout the season.
His aggressive play led him to have six games with double-figure rebounds and six games with three or more steals. He improved so much from last season, it’s crazy. UCF fans are wondering how he can improve this offseason. Maybe he will develop a mid-range jumper and a consistent free-throw shot.
4. What are you most looking forward to next year with Knights basketball?
AL: Calvin Newell Jr. This was a huge transfer for the UCF basketball program. The 6’1″, 200-pound Oklahoma-transfer will add an extremely talented piece to the Knights roster. Newell will make an immediate impact, and likely start at point guard next year now that A.J. Rompza has graduated.
Newell averaged 13 points per game in just 19 minutes in his lone season with the Sooners last year. He’s athletic, has great speed and quickness, and will provide much-needed offense to the Knights starting lineup. The trio of Keith Clanton, Marcus Jordan and Newell is what I’m really excited about.
With the addition of Newell, and the core of UCF’s roster returning, as well as talented incoming freshman, I think next year could be a real special year for the Knights. I’m saying it now- watch out for Newell Jr.
NW: I’m looking forward to see who will take over the point guard spot next season now that Rompza is gone. C.J. Reed, who was the 2010-2011 MEAC Player of the Year when he was at Bethune-Cookman, will be the front-runner for the position.
He had a good opportunity to learn the offense while sitting out last season because of transfer rules. He was practicing with the team all last year, so he should be ready for next season. Also, Calvin Newell Jr., a transfer from Oklahoma, will be eligible in December 2012 to compete for the team.
I think he will have an immediate impact as soon as he starts playing. As a sophomore for the Sooners, he averaged 13.0 points in 19.6 minutes per contest in his five game played before he left. It could possibly be one of the best backcourts’ UCF has ever had.
5. Grade you give to 2011-2012 Knights basketball?
AL: B (being generous): I give them credit for a 20-win campaign, a strong C-USA record, and season-defining wins over some big schools, but the NIT is not the NCAA Tournament, and that was what was expected of this team.