Photo Courtesy: UCF Athletics
By John Weis (’94)
Next UCF Opponent: SMU Mustangs (10-21, 5-13 AAC)
2021-2022 Record: 24-9 (13-4 AAC)
Coach: Rob Lanier (8th year, 121-121 Overall; 1st Season at SMU, 10-21)
Last Game: 3/5/23 at Cincinnati (L, 97-74)
Opening Tip: 3/9/23 2:30 pm (TV: ESPNU)
Opponent at a Glance
It’s tournament time, and in the first round the Knights draw SMU, who won only four times after playing UCF on January 8.
The Mustangs never really did learn how to make up for the loss of last season’s AAC Player of the Year Kendric Davis, who performed exceptionally well with Memphis this year and nearly won the award for a second straight season.
Leading scorer Zhuric Phelps, a 6’3” Sophomore, is doing his part by averaging 17.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Next comes 6’3” Senior Zach Nutall (13.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.7 apg); and 6’9” Sophomore Efe Odijie (11.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg).
From the transfer portal comes 6’7” Senior Samuell Williamson (Louisville), who scores 9.3 ppg and leads the team in rebounds at 7.1. Stefan Todorovic is a lanky 6’8” forward who averages 5.7 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. Jalen Smith is a 6’4” Sophomore (4.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 2.3 apg) who played his high school ball at Orlando Oak Ridge; and Alabama transfer Keyon Ambrose-Hylton chips in with 3.5 ppg and 2.9 apg.
“There are no more tomorrows and no more do-overs, so we need to play with desperation in order to accomplish our goals,” said Knights Coach Johnny Dawkins about beginning postseason competition. “We need to go out there with the right mindset, play hard, play smart and play together … and then we’ll see where we are. All the teams are starting out on the same level – zero and zero – and we have to make our fortunes happen in this tournament.”
In the only game of this season featuring UCF and SMU, the Knights dismantled the Mustangs 85-53 in Orlando. Ithiel Horton led a balanced attack with 21, while Taylor Hendricks and Tyem Freeman added 13 apiece. UCF took the lead at the 16:16 mark of the first half and never trailed after that.
SMU leads the all-time series 7-5. They won the only meeting between the two teams last year, capturing a 72-60 decision January 2 on SMU’s home floor.
During the regular season, the Mustangs averaged 70.3 points per game and give up 75.5. During conference play, they scored 71.7 points per game and surrendered 79.3.
Note the 2:30 start time and where it can be found on TV (ESPNU).
Courtesy of Action Network, here are their 2023 AAC team tournament odds: Houston (-320); Memphis (+500); Cincinnati (+1200); Wichita State and Tulane (+3100); UCF (+3400); Temple (+4200); USF (+12000); Tulsa, SMU and ECU (+25000).
Practically every day, there are new conference realignment rumors. Some of the recent ones surround SMU (and potentially Tulane) moving to the PAC-12. Though the PAC-12 is certainly not at the level of the Big XII, it’s still far more prestigious and lucrative than what’s left of The American.
A former Mustang, 7’0” Jon Koncak, was the recipient of one of the most controversial contracts in league history at the time he received it in 1989. Chosen with the fifth overall pick of the 1985 draft by Atlanta, Koncak played out the first four seasons of his rookie deal. Detroit then tendered him an offer sheet for $2.5 million per season, three times his salary with the Hawks. Atlanta responded by re-signing Koncak to a six-year, $13 million deal, unheard of dollars for a reserve at that time. The massive deal earned him the nickname “Jon Contract”. In 784 games spanning 11 seasons, Koncak averaged 4.5 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.
John Weis is a freelance Writing/PR professional. His company, Weis Words (www.weiswords.biz) serves national clients such as advertising agencies, public relations firms and sports organizations, as well as small businesses and private individuals. A native Central Floridian and basketball enthusiast, he spent six seasons as Broadcast Coordinator for the Orlando Magic Radio Network early in his career. He graduated from UCF in 1994 with a degree in Communications and can’t wait for the Knights to move to the Big XII.