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UCF at #21 Auburn Game Preview and Open Thread

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Lookin for Revenge

NCAA Basketball: Connecticut at Auburn Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday December 1st, 2021

UCF Knights at Auburn Tigers

Auburn Arena

Time: 7:00PM CT

Network: ESPN+, Auburn Radio Network

For some wild and strange reason, UCF has had Auburn’s number across many sports (football, basketball and baseball) the last couple of years. It’s past time to change that.

Auburn returns home for the first time since November 12th when they host Johnny Dawkins and the UCF Knights at Auburn Arena this evening. This game has the chance to be one of the better matchups of the evening as the Knights come in 4-1 on the season with a road win at Miami and just a 3-point loss to Oklahoma on their resume. UCF sits at 53 currently in KenPom and BP had some high praise for the Knights in his press conference yesterday.

Auburn played 2 other top 60 teams in KenPom in the Bahamas (Loyola-Chicago at 29, Syracuse at 60) so the Tigers have faced some quality competition so far this season.

Tonight’s matchup is also a revenge game as the Knights beat Auburn 63-55 last season in Orlando as part of the 3 game Florida swing the Tigers began with last season. The Tigers shot just 32.3% from the field, 7-34 from 3, and 8-22 from the free throw line.

It’ll be interesting to see how Auburn responds after their 3 games in the Bahamas as this team made some significant strides during their time in Paradise. Jabari Smith was SEC Freshmen of the Week for his efforts and made the All-Tournament team as well.

In case you haven’t seen this statistic about KD Johnson, I’m sharing this with you.

KD has been a pleasant surprise in the sense that he’s been much more than I expected prior to the season and how in the world he didn’t start a game at Georgia is well beyond me. Johnson’s been terrific on both sides of the floor, particularly on the defensive end.

Get to Know UCF

UCF is averaging 72.8 PPG while giving up 65.2 PPG so far this season. They force 16.8 turnovers per game, and shoot the 3 well, 37.8% as a team.

This is a formidable team coming to town this evening, one that was picked 5th in the American Conference preseason but considered one of the sleeper teams in the conference, one that I think has a legit chance at 3-4 NCAA Tournament berths.

The Knights return just about all of their team from last year and are loaded with upperclassmen.

Junior guard Darin Green Jr. (#22) leads the way for UCF averaging 16.4 PPG so far this season. He is shooting 17-35 from 3-point range (48.3%) and was 3rd on the team in scoring last season.

Last year’s leading scorer Darius Perry (#2), a fifth year player began his career at Louisville and did not play in the team’s matchup last season. Last year he averaged 14.7 PPG. This year, he is currently on the team averaging 13.4 PPG. He is shooting 44% so far from 3 this season.

Junior forward CJ Walker (#21) made his UCF Debut against Auburn last season with much fanfare after returning to Florida after a year at Oregon. Walker is averaging 9.8 PPG and leads the team averaging 5.2 RPG.

Fifth year guard Brandon Mahan (#13) returns to his home state tonight as the Birmingham native is averaging 7.8 PPG so far this season. He spent 1 year at Texas A&M before transferring to UCF before the start of the 2019-2020 season. Mahan averaged 12.3 PPG and 5 RPG last season.

Redshirt sophomore guard Tyem Freeman (#11) has been the Knights best player off the bench so far this season averaging 7.6 PPG so far this season.

Prediction

If Bruce Pearl thinks this is the best team Auburn will have faced so far this season besides UConn, then I’m expecting a tight contest. As I mentioned at the top, the Tigers have not fared well against UCF recently. That aside, UCF will bring a tough defense to Auburn Arena and can keep the tempo down which would obviously favor them. But after watching Auburn torch the zone of Syracuse on Friday, albeit not a vintage Syracuse team, I’m confident Auburn will find a way to win this one, but think this one will be in the 60s.

Auburn 68 UCF 61