(9) UCF vs (8) VCU
Time: FRI, 8:40 PM CT (CBS)
Spread: UCF -1
Odds c/o 5dimes
The UCF Knights finished its season with a 23-8 record and a 13-5 mark in American Conference play. The Knights ended its season with a two-game skid, losses to Temple and Memphis. UCF draws #8 VCU and was listed as 1-point favorites according to NCAA basketball oddsmakers at 5dimes. The over/under is set at 126.5 total points according to the same bookmaker, and the game will tip off Friday at 8:40 PM (CT) on CBS.
The Knights ranked top-30 defensively this season limiting opponents to just 64.3 points per game. UCF averaged 72.1 points per game itself, and it went 0-1 against ranked opponents (a lone loss to then-No. 12 Houston in conference play). The Knights have not had tests from the top programs, but it fared well with its soft schedule.
The Knights are led by guards BJ Taylor and Aubrey Dawkins, and senior center Tacko Fall made outstanding contributions at the 5-spot for UCF. Taylor and Dawkins combine to average 31.2 points per game in the backcourt, while Fall added 10.9 points, a team-high 7.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game—anchoring a strong Knights’ defense. Chad Brown also blocked a shot per game for UCF, and the Knights average 5.7 steals and 4.5 blocks per game. UCF also keeps its own turnovers down, committing 11.8 per game while shooting 35.4 percent from three on just 596 attempts this season. The Knights’ backcourt of Taylor and Dawkins took over half of those looks, with Taylor knocking down 36 percent and Dawkins over 39 percent.
Fall is a 7’6” 310-pound monster who has really blossomed into his now-senior season. He is averaging roughly the same point and rebound production as his junior year, but he has really become a more fierce shot blocker as time has gone on. When Fall blocks three shots or more, the Knights posted an 11-3 record this season, illustrating the disruptive effect he had on opposing slashers and big men. Fall had 12 points, 10 rebounds, and four blocks in the 55-79 loss to Memphis in the American Conference tournament, and he has had three or more blocks in four of his last 10 games. His defense should be the difference-maker if UCF is able to emerge from this tight 8 vs 9 matchup.
The VCU Rams went 25-7 this season with a first-place finish in A-10 play where it posted a 16-2 conference record. The Rams are a tournament favorite due to past success, but UCF will be a tough draw for it this year and it is indeed a slight underdog in early Vegas odds.
The Rams carried a 12-game winning streak into the A-10 championship quarterfinals where it was upset by Rhode Island. Marcus Silvos-Santa had an absolutely monster game in the loss with 26 points and 22 rebounds. In the three games prior he had just 24 rebounds (eight per game), but he really took it to Rhode Island and hopefully that momentum carries over for Silvos-Santa. He is a 6’7” springy forward and averaged 10.1 points and 7.4 rebounds for VCU this season while shooting nearly 60 percent from the field. Marcus Evans was the leading scorer at 13.8 points per game.
VCU is a poor shooting team overall. It shot 44.2 percent from the field, 69.8 percent from the line, and just 30.7 percent from three-point range on 745 total attempts. Evans attempted 147 but was just a 27 percent shooter on the season. The Rams also turn the ball over a lot with 13.9 turnovers per game, which would not be so bad if not for the fact that the Rams play a slower pace so reliant upon the team’s defense. VCU ranked No. 10 in the nation defensively while holding opponents to just 61.6 points per game, and it had a positive-9.8 point differential in averaging 71.4 itself.