As one of the new members of a strong Big 12, Johnny Dawkins and the UCF Knights hope to hold their own with an incoming group of veteran transfers.
As is tradition, CBB Review is again ranking the top 100 teams heading into the new college basketball season. Each day, we will reveal the next team until we reach the team slotted at number one. Follow along with #CBBRank on all our social media channels.
The UCF Knights are not a traditional basketball school. Quite frankly, the move to the Big 12 revolved solely around their football potential. Albeit, they have been better under Dawkins than previous years. In 2018-19, the Knights were seconds away from advancing to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament as a No. 9 seed.
Moving from the American shifts the perspective entirely. Instead of aiming to finish in the top three and ideally grabbing the automatic bid, strength of schedule will be on UCF’s side. It will be a much heavier grind of a conference schedule and the goal will be to tread water.
In 2023-24, the Knights’ roster turnover is heavy, returning just 16% of their possession minutes. They will lean on experienced transfer acquisitions such as DeMarr Langford (Boston College), Jaylin Sellers (Ball State), and Shemarri Allen (UMKC) to step up. As is typical for a Dawkins coached team, the identity will be defense first.
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Head coach: Johnny Dawkins (16th season, 8th at UCF)
2022-23 record: 19-15 (8-10)
2023 postseason finish: Lost in the NIT second round to Oregon
Notable departures: Taylor Hendricks (NBA Draft), C.J. Kelly (graduated), Ithiel Horton (graduated)
Notable non-conference games: at Miami-Fla (Nov. 10), vs. Ole Miss (Dec. 10)
PG: Darius Johnson (6-1, 190, Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 10.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 4.2 APG
SG: Shemarri Allen (6-4, 200, Gr.-Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 17.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.7 APG (Transfer from UMKC)
SF: DeMarr Langford (6-5, 195, Gr.-Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 7.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.8 APG (Transfer from Boston College)
PF: C.J. Walker (6-8, 205, Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 5.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 0.5 APG, 4 games played
C: Ibrahima Diallo (6-10, 220, Gr.-Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 6.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 0.5 APG (Transfer from San Jose State)
6: Jaylin Sellers (6-4, 180, Sr.)
2022-23 stats: 13.5 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 0.8 APG (Transfer from Ball State)
7: Comeh Emuobor (6-5, 190, Fr.)
247Sports Composite No. 202 overall ranked recruit
8: Thierno Sylla (6-11, 225, Jr.)
2022-23 stats: 2.2 PPG, 1.1 RPG, 0.1 APG
UCF Knights MVP: Darius Johnson
Johnson is the only returning double digit scorer and will likely run the point for the UCF Knights in 2023-24. Aside from an inconsistent three point shot, the Maryland native is a quality all-around player. He finished in the top ten of last year’s AAC in assist rate, 2nd in steal rate, and shot a rock solid 86.0% from the free throw line. He will need to produce on the offensive end night in and night out to win Big 12 games this year, and he is certainly capable.
UCF Knights make-or-break player: Jaylin Sellers
As of now, I slotted the Ball State transfer as the first man off the bench but that is subject to change. Can the production of a 13.5 point per game scorer in a good mid-major league translate over to the Big 12?
Right now, Sellers projects as a role player; his 45% career three-point percentage screams shooting specialist. If that is the presence he can provide, I’m sure Dawkins would not be disappointed. However, in an ideal scenario, Sellers forces himself into the starting lineup. Of course, this would involve either submitting to a small-ball approach or taking minutes away from Allen. However, this is the situation with the most offensive upside.
Key analytic: 338th in Shot Quality’s rim attacking efficiency
Last year, UCF lived and died by the jump shot. That is not necessarily a bad thing in today’s game but the Knights were not simply not efficient enough overall.
It does seem like Dawkins addressed this deficiency in the offseason with his roster acquisitions though. Of course, the aforementioned Sellers will always get the green light, but DeMarr Langford, for example, has quite the opposite playing style. The 6-5 wing placed in the 87th percentile in post up frequency and in just the 26th percentile in three-point shooting frequency. His dribble drive efficiency also placed in the top fourth of the country. Langford’s mentality will help balance out the offense.
Projected conference finish: 13th in Big 12
Projected postseason ceiling: NCAA Tournament – Round of 32