UCF Knights Begin Conference Tournament

Produced by Frank Shala

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The UCF men’s basketball team have reached the ‘win or go home’ stage of their season. The Knights will look to flip the script on a tough year over the next few days, as American Athletic Conference Tournament play begins Thursday.

UCF (12-17, 6-12) has certainly not had a season worth boasting about. Injuries and youth led to inconsistent scoring for the Knights, which resulted in only two wins in their final 13 games.

However, the beauty, and format, of college basketball still gives the Knights hope that their season will continue beyond this weekend. UCF will also have  ‘home court advantage,’ as the Amway Center in Orlando will host the conference tournament.

“I like UCF’s chances,” UCF head coach Donnie Jones said before their teams final preparations Wednesday. “It is a new season and we take what learned, what we did do well, and try to grow on it.”

The Knights enter the tournament as the seventh seed, and will take on the 10th seed Tulane Green Wave (10-21, 3-15) in the first round, whom they’ve defeated twice already this season.

Daiquan Walker has led the Knights in each win against the Green Wave and is averaging 26.5 points, 3.5 assists and 2.5 rebounds in the two games, including a career high 33 points in their first meeting.

“It’s always hard to beat a team three times in a row,” Walker said. “When you beat a team twice, you always get confident and you think it might be an easy one. We just can’t do that.”

UCF has also seen the progression of their freshman center Tacko Fall throughout the latter part of the year. Fall is averaging 11 points, seven rebounds and 2.8 blocks over the last five games, which includes reaching double figures three times. He also leads the conference in blocked shots with 67.

The top six regular season AAC teams earned first round bye’s for the tournament, with the bottom four beginning play Thursday.

In 2014, which was the inaugural year for American Athletic Conference Tournament, ninth seeded UCF won its first round game, topping eighth seeded Temple 94-90 in double overtime. The Knights went on to give top seeded Cincinnati all the Bearcats could handle, eventually falling 61-58 in the quarterfinals.

Last year, the Black & Gold fell in overtime to East Carolina, 81-80, in the first round, something that is still fresh in the mind of the older players.

Tournament action begins Thursday at 3:30 p.m. with the USF Bulls taking on the ECU Pirates, before UCF play Tulane at 6 p.m. EST.