The University of Central Florida Knights hope to start their 2020-21 basketball season Monday when they host the SEC's Auburn. The word hope is the operative word as they had their first game of the year against Oklahoma on Saturday canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Auburn comes in with a record of 1-1, with its only loss against No. 1 Gonzaga. There's not much history between these two as they haven't played one another since 2009. Who will previal when they meet on Monday?
Rebuilding year for AuburnThis will be a rebuilding year for the Auburn Tigers as all five starters from last year's excellent team, which finished second in the SEC, are gone. Most notably, the Tigers will be without their freshman phenom from a year ago, Isaac Okoro, who was just selected in the NBA Draft. They also lost leading scorer Samir Doughty and 6'11" center Austin Riley. They have been projected to be in the middle of the pack, or lower, in the tough SEC. The Tigers are off to a 1-1 start. They won their opener at St. Joseph's of the Atlantic 10, then lost on Black Friday to No. 1 ranked Gonzaga 90-67.
But Auburn coach Bruce Pearl had a strong recruiting class, led by top recruit Sharife Cooper, who, oops, is out for the year, ruled ineligible. He also brought in forward JT Thor, who has looked pretty good in his two starts. Against the Zags, Thor had 11 points. Allen Flanigan led the way with 20 points and 5 rebounds while Jamal Johnson also had 11 points. But Pearl can coach so never count them out.
UCF has leading scorers backIf all things go well and there are no COVID-19 cases or quarantining, Central Florida will play their first game of the 2020-21 season on Monday. The Knights only lost two starters from last year, Caesar DeJesus and Dazon Ingram, and neither were the leading scorer. Both leading scorers from last year, Colin Smith and Darin Green, who averaged 12 and 10 points per game last year. Guard Brandon Mahan, who averaged 7 points per game last year, is the third starter back.
As for newcomers, the Knights have two major transfers who will likely be slotted into starting roles. One is Darius Perry from Louisville, who averaged 5 points per game last year, and the other is Sean Mobley, who averaged 4 points per game at VCU last year. Another transfer, CJ Walker from Oregon, who scored 4 points per game a year ago, was ruled ineligible. Freshmen Jamille Reynolds and Isaiah Adams will also see playing time.
Stats & Trends
- Tigers are 4-1-1 ATS in their last 6 Monday games.
- Knights are 1-5-1 ATS in their last 7 home games vs. a team with a winning road record.
- Knights are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 home games vs. a team with a road winning % of greater than .600.
Take Auburn here to cover the spread. Central Florida has three starters back from a year ago while Auburn has no starters back from a year ago. But the fact is, Central Florida was not that good a year ago -- going 16-14 overall and 7-11 in the American Athletic Conference. Auburn has a very good coach in Bruce Pearl who always seems to get the most out of his players. Plus, he had a good recruiting class. In addition, Auburn has two games under their belt while UCF is playing for the first time. That game against No. 1 Gonzaga is a good measuring stick to how they stack up and while they lost by a lot, they'll gain a lot from that game. I like Auburn here to cover.