UConn and Central Florida may not be eligible for the postseason, but it appears neither program will lie down and roll over for opponents this year.
The Huskies served notice on Friday, downing a ranked Michigan State squad in a marquee matchup at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The Knights and Bulls met in a slightly less exotic environment, on the USF campus in Tampa. The two will become regular foes in the Big East in the very near future, but this was an interesting taste of what lies ahead, as the Knights won handily, 74-56.
The USF Bulls are nominally the stronger team, though that perception may have been fueled by the postseason ban facing the Knights. UCF trotted out an experienced roster in front of a home crowd, led by junior guard Isaiah Sykes, who put up 26 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and dished out eight assists. Forward Keith Clanton chipped in 16, Virginia transfer Tristan Spurlock had 14, and Kasey Wilson joined the double-figure parade as well, adding 13. The Bulls had only one player in double figures: senior guard Jawanza Poland, who led all scorers with 22.
Both teams exposed potential weaknesses in the in-state rivalry game. Central Florida got only two points from the bench, which won’t fly all year long. South Florida showed an astonishing weakness on the interior, where Victor Rudd, Toarlyn Fitzpatrick and Kore White are expected to flourish.
It’s early, but the Knights are letting America know that, post-season or no, they plan to show up.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.