Where UCF Basketball Goes from Here.
Well the semifinal loss to TCU sucked for UCF basketball. It was painful. So close to winning a national tournament. We could almost taste a championship. Yes, I know it was only the NIT, but my god if UCF won it, it would have given a boost to the program the likes of which we have never seen. Instead there was disappointment. Hey we are UCF fans, we are used to it. But fear not my fellow UCF fans, there is hope. You see changes are coming to UCF basketball and oh my are they exciting. It’s safe to say that next year’s UCF squad might be the best in school history. Certainly it is the most talented on paper. So while the TCU loss hurts, UCF basketball looks to take a gigantic leap forward next year. Let’s talk about why.
First and foremost, allow us to address the elephant in the room. Tacko Fall declared for the draft. Yes, he didn’t hire an agent so there is a slim possibility that he will return. But I sincerely doubt that will happen. Once Tacko gets a first round draft grade, we can assume that Tacko will bolt. And that’s fine. I know that some UCF fans will say “WELL YOU HATE TACKO. YOU ALWAYS BASH HIM ON TWITTER. THIS IS HORRIBLE NEWS!!!!!” Listen before you rip your garments and grab your pitchforks let me tell you a secret. Tacko Fall had the worst offensive game for a big man that I have ever seen. His only ability seemed to be his height. He can not shoot the ball and would often just stand around in offense. Affectively making UCF play a 4 on 5 on offense. Of course one could argue that Tacko had one of the best field goal percentages in the country, my retort to that is he’s 7'6 I would fucking hope his field goal percentage would be one of the best in the country. But Tacko struggled with the basics on offense. His pick and roll plays were awful and he consistently clogged the wrong lane forcing BJ Taylor to take a inefficient jumper. So calm down UCF fans, Tacko leaving actually benefits the Knights. Tacko leaving for good opens up UCF for a shift in philosophy, something they should have done earlier in the year: go positionless.
When you look at the ever shifting landscape of college basketball one thing stands out above the rest: the elimination of pro typical position players in the sport. When you look at some of the more successful programs in recent years(Notre Dame, Louisville, Oregon, Duke, UNC, etc) you notice that they play what is known as positionless basketball. In fact UCF need only to look in their own conference for an example of this positionless basketball. Of course I am talking about smu. The Mustangs were one of the most offensive efficient teams in the country. In fact SMU is the top 10 offense in the country according to KenPom. So what makes positionless basketball so effective and efficient? It is because every play can shoot, dribble, or drive. The offense comes at defenses in waves. It is the ultimate pick your poison offense and causes defenses headaches. The era of pounding the ball into the post to a big man that can not shoot or create his own shot is dead.
In contrast, UCF’s offensive efficiency was ranked 150th according to KenPom. Better than last year’s but still not NCAA Tournament worthy. So why is that? Well its simple. When Tacko Fall had 5 or more field goal attempts the UCF offense was 200th in efficiency. When Tacko had 4 or less attempts, UCF’s offense was 100th in offensive efficiency. You see when UCF ran the offense through Matt Williams and BJ Taylor and went small the Knights were actually better. I know I know, someone will post “NERD THE STATS DON’T MATTER. I ONLY BELIEVE WHAT MY EYES TELL ME.” You see UCF’s offense this year was one of those rare occasions where the stats were backed up by the eye test. When UCF’s offense went small and guard oriented, the Knights had beautiful spacing, ball movement, and was something to behold. When Tacko was in the game, he was an anchor in offense. The spacing to drive was awful and the offense was less fluid. So Tacko leaving, allows UCF to catch up to a modern basketball offense.
What makes me so sure that the Knights can run this type of positionless offense and be efficient? It’s simple: the amount of talent UCF has coming in next year is unbelievable. All this season all UCF fans heard about was the mythical Grey Squad. Players that for whatever reason could not play this season, but had been practicing with the team. It has been said that the Grey Squad used to dominate the regular UCF team in said practices. You know the same UCF team that won 24 games and made it to the final 4 of the NIT Tournament. The ills that hurt the 2016–2017 Knights will be cured by the addition of the players from the grey squad. It is the players from the grey squad that will give UCF the ability to run an offense with better spacing and have the best athletes in the floor.
The player that stands out that will be playing for UCF next year is of course Aubrey Dawkins. Aubrey had been a very good player at Michigan averaging 6.6 and 7.0 points per game. But Aubrey’s benefit to UCF goes beyond what he delivers on offense. Aubrey is the type of player that can guard any player on the court. It does not matter how tall or athletic the other player is, Aubrey can cover them all. UCF had over relied on the zone defense last year. That was because the Knights did not have a player like Aubrey. Well now the Knights can go Box and 1 on defense and allow Aubrey to guard the interior or perimeter. Dawkins offers a multitude of ways to help UCF next year. The next intriguing player is Drexel Point Guard transfer Terrell Allen. Allen is my personal pick to be the most important player coming in next year. Allen impressed his freshman year at Drexel scoring 9 points a game while garnering 3.4 assists per game. Allen will allow Johnny Dawkins to play around with the guard position and give needed depth to said position. There are so many combinations that Johnny Dakwins can work with. Starting BJ Taylor at point, moving Taylor to shooting guard and starting Allen at point, etc. Terrell Allen gives UCF the depth so needed.
Speaking of depth at the guard position, UCF has Dayon Griffin coming in. Griffin averaged 11 points while at LaTech, so he will be more than capable in filling in for Matt Williams. With the trio of Griffin, BJ Taylor, and Terrell Allen, UCF will have their best backcourt ever. Then you add the likes of Chance McSpadden and Ceasar DeJesus and the Knights backcourt will be terrifying to opponents. Especially with the way that BJ Taylor carried the Knights throughout conference play last year. This looks to be the position group that can lead UCF to a NCAA bid next year.
UCF basketball took some major strides this season. The Knights made it further in the postseason than any other UCF team. 24 wins ties the most in school history and UCF made the final 4 of the NIT. Oh and they did it all with 7 scholarship players on the active roster. So imagine what next year is going to look like when UCF has more depth and the most talented group of players this university has ever had. I know casual fans will think that Tacko Fall leaving is the death of any hope. But that would be a poor and idiotic thought. The amount of talent UCF has coming in is incredible and allows UCF to play positionless basketball. To have the best players on the court regardless of where they are supposed to play. Oh and with Johnny Dawkins on the bench, the sky is the limit for this program. It’s NCAA Tournament birth or bust next year for the Knights.