Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Bradley and UCF

Today, we continue the WKU non-conference schedule breakdown with Bradley and Central Florida. Tomorrow, we will wrap it up with Arizona and Virginia. On Friday, I will reveal the 1-seeds in my preseason bracket.

Aside from having the worst athletics website of any team on the preview so far, I like the Braves' team this season. Take one senior 1st-team all-conference player (F Marcellus Sommerville, 17.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg), add in experienced seniors (PG Tony Bennett, F Lawrence Wright), and top it off with EVERY player returning from last year's team, and you have yourself a pretty promising squad.

The enigmatic Braves started 9-2 last season, including a win over DePaul, but finished on a 2-9 tailspin to end a once promising campaign. They will need consistent play in the MVC if the hope to reach the post-season, which is reasonable goal for this squad. Northern Iowa and Creighton figure to be the cream of the crop, but BU can challenge Wichita State, SIU, and Missouri State in the second tier for an NCAA or NIT bid. I'm betting the NIT is likely for BU. This game is in Peoria, so I expect a dogfight between the Tops and Braves on December 14.

I cannot locate a schedule for BU at this point, but I will pass it along whenever it is released.

Central Florida
The Golden Knights are getting short-changed by pundits. Typical "big conference bias" says that UCF is not ready to compete with teams in the CUSA, despite their back-to-back NCAA appearances and the 23rd most wins of all of the programs in the country over the last three seasons. I beg to differ. The cupboard is far from bare, and the CUSA is far from the conference it was last season. The Knights may not be ready for Memphis or UAB, but I think they can hang with East Carolina, Southern Miss, SMU, Rice, and anyone else in the CUSA.

Although they lost their starting backcourt, UCF returns their entire front line in G/F Josh Peppers (13.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg), F Anthony Williams (11.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg), and C Will Bakanowsky (6.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg). They also add NC State transfer Mike O'Donell (briefly linked to WKU as a transfer rumor) to run the point. I just cannot see the doom and gloom that most pundits are predicting. Yes, the CUSA is a tougher conference than the Atlantic Sun, but UCF has been a 20-win team for several years now. They are returning enough to compete.

Their schedule is highlighted by games at Florida and at Kentucky. The Tops and Knights square off in Tucson, Arizona, at the Fiesta Bowl Classic on December 19. The winner takes on the winner of Arizona/Sam Houston State.