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BYU at UCF Preview: Cougars Road Favorites Over the Knights

BYU will look to get its first Big 12 win versus a UCF team coming off a massive win.

NCAA Basketball: Brigham Young at Baylor Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

BYU is looking to get its first Big 12 conference win Saturday afternoon in Orlando when the Cougars take on UCF. As of this publishing most betting places have BYU as a 5-point road favorite.

BYU and UCF by the Numbers

UCF KenPom: 80

NET: 76

Record: 10-4

Best Wins: Kansas (H)

Losses: Miami (A), Ole Miss (H), Stetson (H), Kansas State (A)

BYU KenPom: 12

Net: 4

Record: 12-3

Best Wins: San Diego State (H), NC State (N), Arizona State (N)

Losses: Utah (A), Cincinnati (H), Baylor (A)

KenPom Prediction: BYU 74, UCF 68 — BYU 73% win probability

UCF Overview

After getting rolled at Kansas State by 25 points in their Big 12 opener, the Knights followed that up with a shocking 65-60 home win over #3 Kansas. UCF was picked to finish last in the Big 12 and hadn’t had any signature wins to that point. In non-conference play, UCF lost to both of the top 100 teams they played — Miami and Ole Miss — and their best win was an OT win on a neutral court versus the #119 team in KenPom, Charlotte. UCF also suffered a home loss Stetson, who is ranked 206 in KenPom.

UCF’s strength is defense. They have some really good athletes that propel UCF’s defense to top 10 in turnover percentage and top 35 nationally in effective field goal percentage. 7-foot big man Ibrahima Diallo is one of the best shot blockers in the country and allows UCF to be more aggressive. While this aggressiveness can lead to a lot of forced turnovers, the Knights foul a lot too and can give up three-point looks when they don’t force turnovers.

Offensively, the Knights have struggled this year. The Knights turn the ball over a lot, don’t shoot threes well, don’t shoot twos well, and don’t shoot free throws well — not a great combo! The one thing they do consistently well is attack the offensive glass, for which they are 35% nationally in offensive rebounding percentage. The Knights also do a decent job getting to the free throw line. All their shooting and turnover percentages are sub 200 nationally.

How did UCF beat Kansas? They only 42% from the floor versus 51% from Kansas, but won the turnover battle 18-13 and shot 14-18 from the line versus 6-11 from the Jayhawks.

UCF Players to Watch

Jaylin Sellers, Guard — UCF’s leading scorer averages 18 points. Sellers is a streaky shooter, He averages 6 3PA per game and shoots 28% from three, but went 4-7 from deep versus Kansas, which was the most threes he made in a game this season. Jaylin also shoots plenty from inside the arc and gets to the foul line.

Ibrahima Diallo, Center — The 7-footer is the lynchpin of the UCF defense and allows them to play more aggressive due to Diallo’s rim protecting abilities. Diallo got his first start of the season versus Kansas, so I wouldn’t be surprised he if he keeps that role moving forward. Diallo averages 6.5 points and 6 boards per game, but is top 5 nationally in block percentage.

Darius Johnson, Guard — Johnson is UCF’s starting point guard and second on the team in scoring with an average of 14 ppg. He is also UCF’s best three-point shooter with a 39% average and leads the team with 2 steals per game.

Marchelus Avery, Forward — UCF’s top sixth man is the third leading scorer at the team averaging 10 ppg. He is the other main three-point threat on the team with Johnson, shooting 39% from deep.

Storylines and Matchups to Watch

  • BYU Turnovers: After taking care of the ball well in non-conference play, turnovers have been an issue for BYU in two Big 12 games as the competition has improved. If BYU can keep turnovers to 12 or less, I think BYU wins by double digits. If they get in the 15+ range, then I think UCF has a good shot to win. Dallin Hall has had his struggles limiting turnovers in Big 12 play and will need to be strong with the ball versus a tenacious UCF defense that will hound him.
  • Is UCF due for a letdown? The Knights are coming off one of the biggest wins in program history. They have one less day to prepare than BYU does (BYU played Tuesday and UCF played Wednesday), so they will need to get focused quick to avoid falling asleep versus a BYU team that can get hot if aren’t dialed in on their defensive game plan.
  • BYU vs UCF Frontcourt: Diallo and Khalifa aren’t big scorers, but they affect the game in very different ways. Khalifa is an elilte passer and Diallo is an elite rim protector. Diallo can hurt Khalifa offensively with his rim running ability, but on the other end Khalifa can change UCF’s defense by taking Diallo away from the rim. Atiki matches up better with Diallo defensively than Fouss since he can better guard rim lobs, but BYU will want to get Fouss more involved at some point as he works his way back from injury to give BYU some additional paint scoring. How BYU divvies up minutes at the five will be something I watch.


UCF has ingredients to cause BYU issues. The gym should be lively after the big Kansas win, they get to the free throw line pretty well, and they cause turnovers. Conversely, they don’t shoot particularly well and are prone to give up lots of assists. That last point I think is interesting. 56% of opponents field goal makes are assisted, which is 298th nationally. UCF forces a lot of turnovers, but if they are unsuccessful they are susceptible to open three-point shooters, which BYU is prime to exploit. Look at UCF’s loss to Stetson, for example. Stetson was 13-30 from behind the arc even with 17 turnovers.

I think BYU will have turnover spells, but I they may catch UCF in a bit of a let down spot and are a completely different team and style than Kansas is. Kansas plays inside out with Hunter Dickinson and only shot 18 threes, whereas BYU plays five out and could shock UCF with the amount of ball movement and commitment to the three point line.

Prediction: BYU 73, UCF 70