UCF (24-9, 13-5 AAC) vs. Duke (30-5, 14-4 ACC)
Columbia, S.C. | South | 5:15 p.m. | CBS
KenPom projection: Duke, 84 percent.
Key players: G B.J. Taylor (16 points, 37.3 percent 3-point accuracy), G Aubrey Dawkins (15.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 39 percent 3-point shooter), C Tacko Fall (11 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.6 blocks).
How they got here: The preseason favorite in the American, UCF didn’t receive much national attention after surprising losses to Florida Atlantic and Missouri. The Knights kept plugging away in what became a strong AAC, finally getting their breakthrough in March, winning at Houston before beating Cincinnati in Orlando five days later.
Strengths: The Knights are excellent defensively, ranking 32nd nationally in defensive efficiency. Fall is the key to that, as the 7-6 senior uses his 310-pound rame and 8-foot wingspan to keep opponents out of the lane and protect the rim. Typical of someone from the Mike Krzyzewski coaching tree, Johnny Dawkins has his team running opponents off the 3-point line and is one of the best nationally in defending beyond the arc, as opponents are hitting just 31 percent of their attempts. Both Taylor and Dawkins are capable scorers from all over the floor, while Terrell Allen is UCF’s best outside threat, hitting 40 percent from 3-point range. The moment won’t be too big as UCF ranks 21st in experience, as seven players in its nine-man rotation are either juniors or seniors.
Weaknesses: For a team with a 7-6 center, the Knights don’t rebound the ball particularly well, ranking 118th in offensive rebounding rate and 240th in defensive rebounding rate. That could be problematic against a Duke team that ranks fifth in college basketball in total rebounding. Pace could also be an issue for UCF, which prefers to play at a far more deliberate pace than the opportunistic Blue Devils, who will unleash their press to get transition buckets as the Knights rank 309th nationally in tempo. Though solid offensively, the Knights aren't a strong shooting team, ranking in the 80's in both 2- and 3-point field goal percentage while they've struggled at the 3-point line, hitting 64.7 percent to rank 333rd.