|The last vision of Colorado in the NIT was a painful one. From: the AP|
If some of you, especially those who may have been too young to remember 'the before times,' are missing an answer to why this tournament is still important, just look back to that season. Even though Colorado missed out on the Dance, even though they didn't win in New York City, just getting there was a momentous step in the modern history of this program. It was the launching pad for the 2012 rocket blasting into a league championship and the second round of the NCAA Tournament. It was the true birth of the swagger and the pride of Colorado Basketball. That NIT run meant something to those of us who got to latch on and experience it first hand -- to look past the opportunity the NIT can be is to look past all the joy of the last five years.
|The 2011 NIT means a lot for this program. From: the BDC|
But, enough jabber, on to the crux of the matter: UCF. The fourth place finishers in the AAC this year, the Knights were winners of 21 games and are unquestionably a solid, tough basketball team. Looking at their resume, I don't see a whole lot of hiccups (though the home loss to Penn isn't anything to brag about). Their problem this season was an overall soft schedule (even with a date against Villanova, the Knights were 329th in non-conference scheduling) and missed opportunities in league play. Really, outside of home wins over Cincinnati and Houston, they swung and missed against every big team they played. Indeed, should they beat CU this afternoon, it'd make for their third-best win of the season.
|Coach Dawkins swapped coasts over the summer. From: UCFKnights.com|
Johnny has an interesting roster to work with in Orlando, though. The obvious standout, mostly because he literally stands out above the crowd, is sophomore center Tacko Fall. The 7-6 (that's not a miss-print), 290 lbs Senegalese baller is as unique a challenge as you'll find in the game today. In the mold of Sim Bhullar and Mamadou N'Diaye of recent fame, he towers over the paint, almost blocking out the rim from the sight of would-be attackers. It's no wonder, then, that the Knights are #1 in the country in two-point shot percentage defense, allowing under 40% inside the arc. What was once a good shot, anything near the rim, becomes a dicey proposition with Fall, the AAC's Defensive Player of the Year, lurking to block or otherwise affect even the closest of looks. Opponents are even under 50% at the rim itself. Colorado will need to find an answer to this conundrum -- moving the ball, getting out in transition, and hitting outside jumpers.
|Dude's tall, what else can I say? From: the AP|
Fall, however, isn't the only dangerous piece on the Knights. Guards BJ Taylor and Matt Williams combine for 32 points per game, and can be deadly. The senior Williams, especially, rarely leaves the court, and is an outstanding shooter. He took 292 three-point attempts this season, canning 38% of them. Colorado needs to run him off the line and keep him from getting hot. Elsewhere, Tank Efianayi is an interesting veteran wing capable of playing inside-outside. He combines well with AJ Davis and Nick Banyard up front.
|Williams is an electric outside threat. From: the Orlando Sentinel|
Tip-off from CFE Arena in Orlando, FL is set for 5pm MT Wednesday. Coverage can be found via internet stream on ESPN3 (aka: WatchESPN), with the radio call... unknown at this time. Is Mark Johnson still available, or did he bail on this season? Anyway, stick with the stream, it may be your only shot at following this one.
GO BUFFS! PROVE ME RIGHT, AND BEAT THE KNIGHTS!