UCF Knights

A.J. Davis, Mamadou Ndiaye
Associated Press

VIDEO: UCF’s A.J. Davis dunks on Mamadou Ndiaye

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Wednesday night’s matchup between UC Irvine and UCF matched the two tallest players in college basketball, with the height of UC Irvine’s 7-foot-6 junior Mamadou Ndiaye being equaled by that of UCF freshman Tacko Fall. Having a big man that tall can serve as an effective deterrent on the defensive end of the floor, with opponents deciding that they’d rather not attack the basket.

But it can also represent an invitation of sorts, with opposing players who think more of the highlight opportunity than the possibility of having their shot blocked deciding to try their luck.

UCF forward A.J. Davis (he’s 6-foot-9, by the way) saw an opportunity to drive baseline late in the second half and he took it, attacking the rim and throwing down a dunk over Ndiaye. Give Davis credit for attacking the basket, getting the Knights two key points in a game that eventually went to overtime.

But it’s a safe bet that he’d trade this highlight for the win, as Ndiaye and the Anteaters left Orlando with a 61-60 victory.

Video credit: ESPN3

7-foot-6 Tacko Fall still awaiting NCAA clearance at UCF

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The NCAA still hasn’t made decisions on the eligibility of a few incoming freshmen, including UCF 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall.

According to a report from the Orlando Sentinel, Fall and UCF are still awaiting a decision from the NCAA on the center’s academic eligibility, in-part because he’s an international student hailing from Senegal.

Regarded as a three-star prospect coming out of high school, Fall could immediately help the Knights because his unique size is impossible to practice for and he’s a good rim protector. Fall is still allowed to practice with the team as he awaits the NCAA’s ruling, but he can’t participate in games or travel with the team.

If Fall isn’t cleared to play shortly, he could miss a highly-anticipated matchup against UC Irvine on Nov. 18 in which he could go head-to-head against another 7-foot-6 center in Mamadou N’Diaye.

Coaches on the Hot Seat

of the Indiana Hoosiers during the game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Assembly Hall on March 3, 2015 in Bloomington, Indiana.
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As we get closer to the start of the 2015-16 college basketball season, let’s take a look at the head coaches who need to have a good season in order to feel safe. While the list of coaches on CBT’s “hot seat” have had poor seasons and lost their jobs before, keep in mind that the last two No. 1 selections for this list kept their jobs the following season, including Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, who is currently thriving in College Park. 

1. Tom Crean, Indiana: Indiana enters the 2015-16 season with top-25 talent and high expectations, but Crean finds himself atop the hot seat list for failing to meet expectations at Indiana. Crean’s now entering his eighth season as the Indiana head coach, and only once in the previous seven seasons — the 2012-13 season — have the Hoosiers been good enough to be considered a true title contender. That’s not enough, but not only is Crean struggling to find the success the Hoosier fan base craves on the floor, but the dismissal of three more players this offseason hasn’t made life any easier off the floor. Indiana’s president isn’t pleased with the off-the-court developments and many prominent Indiana alums have been vocal about the Hoosiers falling below expectations. A big season would go a long way towards quieting Crean’s doubters.

2. Josh Pastner, Memphis: Much like Crean at Indiana, Pastner has achieved success but faltered compared to a passionate fan base’s expectations. Memphis missed the postseason altogether for the first time in 15 years with last season’s 18-14 record and the team’s best returning player, Austin Nichols, transferred to Virginia, following Nick King and Pookie Powell out the door. Pastner is going to rely heavily on the freshman Lawson brothers to make a postseason appearance immediately, but in a city that became accustomed to the success of John Calipari’s Tigers, will they be satisfied if we’ve already seen Peak Pastner?

3. Brian Gregory, Georgia Tech: After a 12-19 season and 14th place finish, Gregory is back for his fifth season at Georgia Tech. He’s never finished above ninth in the ACC. Gregory has coached one team to the NCAA tournament in his last 11 seasons and that came at Dayton in 2010. The local recruiting momentum is also limited for Georgia Tech under Gregory. The Yellow Jackets went 0-for-7 recruiting prospects from Georgia in the Rivals150 in the Class of 2015. In the Class of 2016, that number is 1-for-11.

4. Kevin Willard, Seton Hall: Entering his sixth season at Seton Hall, Willard has finished above .500 twice and owns a 30-60 mark in the Big East. Having never made the NCAA tournament as a head coach, the pressure is on Willard to produce even though experienced guards Sterling Gibbs and Jaren Sina both transferred out of the program.

5. John Groce, Illinois: Illinois missed the NCAA tournament in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1992 and that isn’t sitting well with Illini fans. Groce has never finished above seventh in the Big Ten and he hasn’t been able to reel in a lot of big-named recruits that Illinois finds itself a finalist for. Transfers like Darius Paul and Aaron Cosby haven’t lasted and proved to be harmful as replacements for those missed recruits. Illinois fans expect results and Groce needs to make the NCAAs again.

MORE: 2015-16 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

Illinois head coach John Groce (Getty Images)
Illinois head coach John Groce (Getty Images)

6. Barry Hinson, Southern Illinois: The once proud Southern Illinois program has had to endure Hinson’s three-year tenure. He’s thrown his own players under the bus during a postgame press conference and publicly remarked about his job security this spring. The Salukis own a 40-57 record and 19-35 mark in conference play under Hinson and he lost five transfers this offseason, three of them freshmen.

7. Donnie Jones, UCF: UCF was successful in Conference USA, but its been a rough back-to-back stretch for the program. Jones has never made the NCAA tournament and his 2010-11 wins were vacated for using ineligible players. Jones was also suspended three CUSA games and the program put on probation. Now he’s 25-36 overall and 9-27 in the American the last two seasons.

8. Travis Ford, Oklahoma State: It’s never a good sign when the team’s athletic director and biggest public booster, T. Boone Pickens, publicly have to back Travis Ford, which is precisely what happened in Stillwater this offseason. It’s a far worse sign that Ford owns no NCAA tournament wins since 2009 despite recruiting McDonald’s All-Americans like LeBryan Nash and Marcus Smart, who both played for multiple seasons.

9. Dave Rice, UNLV: Rice has proven to be a formidable force on the recruiting trail, but that success has yet to translate on the Thomas and Mack Center court, as the Rebs have missed the last two NCAA tournaments. Rice was feeling the heat a little bit this offseason when rumors of Ben Howland looking at UNLV began swirling, but Howland is now at Mississippi State and Rice landed hometown McDonald’s All-American Stephen Zimmerman. Rice still doesn’t own any NCAA tournament wins, and with yet another talented recruiting class, he needs a strong season.

10. Kim Anderson, Missouri: Anderson’s first season at Mizzou was a disaster as the team went 9-23 and 3-15 in the SEC. It’s not looking much better in the future as the Tigers lost some key pieces — namely Jonathan Williams III and Teki Gill-Cesear — to transfer.

Three-star point guard headed to UCF

Donnie Jones
Associated Press
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Sunday afternoon UCF head coach Donnie Jones and his staff reeled in their third verbal commitment in the Class of 2016, adding another player capable of running the point in the process.

6-foot-2 guard Jeremy Carter-Sheppard announced that he’ll be a Knight in 2016, joining forwards Clayton Hughes and Brachen Hazen as verbal commitments in UCF’s class for that year. Carter-Sheppard attends John Marshall HS in Richmond, Virginia, and he played on a Team Loaded VA grassroots team that included prospects such as Kentucky commit Sacha Killeya-Jones and recent Duke pledge Javin DeLaurier.

Carter-Sheppard took his official visit to UCF last weekend. His ability as a ball-handler and distributor will fill a need for UCF in 2016-17.

Of UCF’s three seniors entering the 2015-16 season one, Daiquan Walker, is a perimeter player. UCF has to replace its assists leader from last season in Brandon Goodwin, with Walker and leading scorer B.J. Taylor among those who will need to fill that role. There will be room for Carter-Sheppard to earn immediate playing time as a freshman, due in part to the eventual departure of Walker.

Three-star small forward commits to UCF

Donnie Jones
Associated Press
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Having already landed one wing prospect in the Class of 2016, UCF landed a second Tuesday night as Indiana native Brachen Hazen announced that he’ll play his college basketball for head coach Donnie Jones.

“Proud to say that I’ve committed to the University of Central Florida! Thank you to all the coaches that have recruited me this long,” Hazen said via Twitter, and he joins guard/forward Clayton Hughes in UCF’s 2016 recruiting class to date. Hazen also held offers from programs such as Ball State, Clemson, Creighton, Illinois State, Maryland, Richmond and Valparaiso.

“Brachen Hazen is an intriguing combo forward pickup for UCF as he brings athleticism and a developing skill set to the position,” NBC Sports recruiting insider Scott Phillips said of the newest Knight. “A bouncy player who plays in attack mode, once Hazen improves his perimeter jumper he could be a tough player to guard in the American.”

The 6-foot-8 Hazen was an Indiana Large School All-State selection after his junior season at Columbia City HS. Hazen played for the Spiece Indy Heat program on the Nike EYBL circuit this summer, averaging 11.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.

UCF doesn’t have a senior on the wing on this season’s roster, and point guard Daiquan Walker is the team’s lone senior on the perimeter as a whole. Among the players who will have eligibility remaining when Hazen and Hughes arrive on campus are current juniors Matt Williams and Tanksley Efianayi, sophomores Adonis Henriquez and A.J. Davis, and freshman Chance McSpadden.

UCF snags three-star 2016 shooting guard

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UCF landed its first pledge in the Class of 2016 by getting three-star shooting guard Clayton Hughes. A bouncy 6-foot-5 shooting guard, Hughes hails from Tennessee and had some strong flashes of play this summer with Team Thad. Hughes also ran with Team M33M at times during the spring as well.

The Knights are getting a lefty guard who can hit some shots and also attack the basket in Hughes. Coming off of a strong 2015 recruiting haul that included four three-star prospects, this is a solid start in 2016 for head coach Donnie Jones.

Here’s some highlights of Hughes from this fall at a showcase event, courtesy of Next Up Recruits.