Central Florida Golden Knights

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AAC plan men’s basketball tourney at new Texas arena in ’20

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FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The American Athletic Conference will hold its men’s basketball tournament in a new arena in North Texas in 2020.

AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco announced Wednesday that Dickies Arena in Fort Worth has been selected to host the tournament for three years, starting in March 2020. That is only four months after the facility is scheduled to open.

On the same day of a groundbreaking ceremony for the 14,000-seat arena last April, the NCAA announced that first- and second-round games of the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball tournament would be held there. The NCAA women’s gymnastics championships are scheduled there from 2020-22.

The closest AAC school to the new arena is SMU, with its campus in Dallas about 40 miles away.

Orlando will host the 2018 AAC tournament, which moves to Memphis in 2019.

UCF coach Johnny Dawkins gets one-year contract extension

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — UCF has extended the contract of basketball coach Johnny Dawkins after a successful first season.

The school announced Thursday that Dawkins’ current six-year contract has been extended by a year through 2023. The extension will add $1.5 million onto his current deal.

Last year, Dawkins guided the Knights to a 24-12 record and an appearance in the NIT Final Four. UCF doubled its win total from the previous year, the sixth biggest turnaround in NCAA Division I basketball last season.

Dawkins is a former Duke All-American who joined the Knights in 2016 after being fired at Stanford. His current contract pays him $1.1 million before incentives.

Central Florida lands a commitment from 7-foot-5 center

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Central Florida has landed a commitment from 7-foot-5 center Tacko Fall, NBCSports.com has confirmed. Fall is a three-star recruit, according to Rivals, that picked the Knights over Georgetown and Washington, among other.

ESPN.com first reported the story.

Fall is one of the more interesting prospects in the country simply because of his size. It goes without saying, but 7-foot-5 centers don’t come along that often. What makes Fall intriguing is that he isn’t just a stiff. He doesn’t have Allen Iverson’s athleticism, but he moves pretty well for his size. His offense is a work in progress, but that’s true for just about every big man that isn’t named Jahlil Okafor.

Where Fall will have a major impact is on the defensive end of the floor. Simply put, he’s massive, and he understands that he’s massive. He gets that all he really needs to do is to stand straight up around the rim and he’ll have a huge impact on a game.

Fall might not ever be an all-league player, but this is a really nice pickup for Donnie Jones. He joins three-star prospect Chad Brown, sharpshooter Chance McSpadden and JuCo transfer Tanksley Efianayi.

Luke Hancock back to form in Louisville’s 90-65 win over UCF?

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It’s been a difficult week for No. 14 Louisville.

The Cardinals suffered a 73-66 loss in Lexington to rival Kentucky. It only go worse on Monday when head coach Rick Pitino that forward Chane Behanan had been dismissed from the team. In addition to Behanan’s dismal, Pitino said junior guard Kevin Ware will likely redshirt this season.

Louisville responded to a challenging week with a 90-65 thrashing of Central Florida on the road to begin American Athletic Conference play on New Year’s Eve.

Russ Smith led all scorers with 24 points, connecting on six of Louisville’s season-high 14 threes. On the night, the Cards shot 52 percent from behind the arc against a pretty good perimeter defense. Smith had almost half of those threes with four more coming from Luke Hancock.

Hancock entered the game shooting a dismal 24 percent from behind the arc, including a 2-for-8 from deep against Kentucky. But the senior wing, who wore No. 32 for much of the game after his jersey was torn, connected on 4-of-9 from deep, scoring 16 points off the bench, the first time he registered double figures in five games.

He dealt with an injury for much of the preseason, which kept him out of the season opener. Despite struggling from behind the 3-point line, Hancock had remained aggressive offensively, drawing fouls, and getting to the free throw line. But when Hancock is stroking from deep, Louisville is a more dangerous team. Tuesday night was an indication that last season’s Final Four Most Outstanding Player is getting back to form.

Given the events of the last week, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Alex Owens decommits from Central Florida

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Less than two months after ending his recruitment early, four-star 2015 power forward Alex Owens is back on the boards.

The 6-foot-8 Owens committed to Central Florida back on Sept. 17, but on Tuesday morning, Buddy Collings of the Orlando Sentinel reported that he had decided to decommit from UCF.

“He came to my office this morning and said he wants to reopen his recruitment,” Owens’ coach Alex Jackson told Collings on Tuesday.

“He still likes UCF, but he wants to enjoy the process.”

In mid-September, the Orlando native mentioned he wanted a school that was close to home while UCF’s move to the American also played a role in his decision. At that time several other in-state schools such as Florida, Florida State and Miami had offered him. Cinnicinnati, Maryland, Missouri, N.C. State and Providence were also in the mix as well.

Louisville had also seen him weeks before he picked UCF.

This summer, Owens was on the Each 1 Teach 1 (Fla.) team that won the Nike EYBL Peach Jam. He averaged 9.0 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. He also represented USA South in the Nike Global Challenge, averaging 11.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per contest while also posting a pair of double-doubles in the showcase.

He is ranked No. 71 overall in the Class of 2015. Owens was the first member of the Golden Knights’ Class of 2015, but during his short commitment UCF has landed Deltona High (Fla.) power forward Chad Brown and Lakewood Senior High (Fla.) small forward Anthony Lawrence Jr.

American Athletic Conference 2013-14 Preview: Louisville comes back strong

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To see the rest of the Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

The inaugural year of the American Athletic Conference — or American as they prefer — features the defending national champions in Louisville for only one year before they leave for the ACC, but it should make for some great competition at the top as the Cardinals, Memphis and UConn will slug it out for the AAC title.

Cincinnati, Temple, South Florida, Houston and SMU all have talented pieces in place for potential NCAA Tournament runs while Central Florida and one-year AAC member Rutgers (Big Ten next season) are at the bottom.

FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW:

1. The champs are still loaded: Louisville loses senior leader Peyton Siva, defensive stopper Gorgui Dieng and forward Chane Behanan is suspended, but the Cardinals still return Russ Smith, Luke Hancock and Montrezl Harrell and Kevin Ware should be up to speed soon. Wayne Blackshear is also finally healthy and Chris Jones is the top junior college transfer in the country.

2. Best backcourt won’t be crowned overnight: Between Louisville (Smith, Jones, Ware and Terry Rozier), Memphis (Joe Jackson, Mike Dixon, Chris Crawford and Geron Johnson) and UConn (Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright and Omar Calhoun) can all vie for the honor of the best backcourt in the American — and maybe the country — but that claim will have to be decided on the floor.

3. The return of UConn: Tournament-ineligible last season due to a poor APR, the Huskies have the talent to make a postseason run behind their aforementioned experienced backcourt and the late-season play of junior DeAndre Daniels. The key for the Huskies will be finding an interior presence somewhere, be it Tyler Olander, Phil Nolan or Kentan Facey.

4. SMU has a lot of new (and talented) pieces: Led by McDonald’s All-American shooting guard Keith Frazier, Larry Brown will have quite an infusion of talent in year two at SMU. But how will they all integrate together? JuCo center Yanick Moreira, Illinois State point guard transfer Nic Moore and freshman two-guard Sterling Brown are also potential key pieces.

5. The American has talent from top-to-bottom: The heavy-hitters Louisville, Memphis, UConn and Cincinnati should compete for NCAA Tournament bids right away but other teams in the league could surprise thanks to a lot of returning talent. Temple, South Florida, Houston, and SMU all have a lot of pieces and with it being a new league one — or more — could thrive right off the bat.

PRESEASON AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Russ Smith, Louisville

An explosive off-guard with the ball, Smith averaged 18.7 points per game last season but must be more of a leader if Louisville is to remain in national title talks. A key question with Smith will be whether or not he embraces his role on this team — ‘Russdiculous’ actually works in Louisville’s system — or if he spends his senior season trying to prove he can be a point guard to NBA teams.

source:  THE REST OF THE AMERICAN’S FIRST TEAM:

  • Shabazz Napier, UConn: Experienced senior guard can score or run an offense and remains one of the nation’s most underrated guards.
  • Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati: Averaged 17 points in the Big East and remains Cincinnati’s No. 1 scoring option.
  • Montrezl Harrell, Louisville: Breakout postseason and summer for the sophomore big man could lead to big season.
  • Ryan Boatright, UConn: Explosive junior guard can score and push tempo with best of them.

FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW:

  • Joe Jackson, Memphis
  • Luke Hancock, Louisville
  • TaShawn Thomas, Houston
  • Michael Dixon, Memphis
  • Isaiah Sykes, Central Florida

BREAKOUT STAR: Omar Calhoun (UConn)

Calhoun is poised for a big year after a strong freshman season where he averaged 11.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-5 wing will have the benefit of playing with two of the conference’s top five returning scorers and assists leaders in Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright and the trio will be tough to guard.

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Larry Brown (SMU)

It’s not the kind of pressure from fans or administration, but time is not on SMU’s side. Their last NCAA Tournament? 1993. Some of the Mustang players weren’t born yet. Head coach Larry Brown is 73, which means that his time in Dallas is limited. Brown will have a few years to win at SMU and he gets a major talent influx this year with transfers and a strong recruiting class.

ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING … : This new league was better than we thought.

I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT : The battle of the backcourts between Louisville, Memphis and Connecticut.

FIVE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO CIRCLE ON YOUR CALENDAR:

  • December 28th, Louisville at Kentucky
  • November 19th, Memphis at Oklahoma State
  • December 14th, Cincinnati at Xavier
  • December 2nd, Florida at UConn
  • February 8th, Gonzaga at Memphis

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Louisville: The champs return a number of talented pieces and add best junior college guard Chris Jones and get a healthy Wayne Blackshear. How soon does Behanan return from suspension?
2. Memphis: Incredibly experienced senior-laden backcourt leads a talented group that needs Shaq Goodwin and its talented freshman class to mature quickly.
3. Connecticut: Napier and Boatright are as good any backcourt in the country but how much have Omar Calhoun and DeAndre Daniels improved?
4. Cincinnati: After Sean Kilpatrick who scores for the Bearcats? Mick Cronin’s bunch will still defend like crazy but questions on offense linger.
5. Temple: Fran Dunphy’s teams always compete and even without Khalif Wyatt, Will Cummings and Anthony Lee still gives them plenty.
6. South Florida: One-two punch of playmaking guard Anthony Collins and forward Victor Rudd gives the Bulls a nice foundation going forward.
7. Houston: TaShawn Thomas returns from a 16.9 and 9.8 junior campaign and Danuel House should make the leap on the wing as a sophomore.
8. SMU: A lot of new talent and transfers for the Mustangs, but how does it all mesh together in a new league?
9. Central Florida: Six of top seven return, including first-team All-Conference USA guard Isaiah Sykes.
10. Rutgers: The Eddie Jordan era begins in New Jersey as the Scarlet Knights look to turn around their program.