ORLANDO, Fla. — Entering 2017, the UCF Knights ride in with an 11-3 record, a four-game winning streak, and an unblemished conference start. Four Knights are scoring in double-figures while A.J. Davis continues to stuff stat-sheets and sophomore Chad Brown plays better each game.
But, one piece is missing, and it is one that could make this Knights’ squad the first to make the NCAA Tournament since 2005.
“It’s still day-by-day to see what happens,” said UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins of point guard B.J. Taylor. “We are hoping that he continues to get healthy and when they (the doctors) give us the word, we will be ready for him to get going.”
B.J. Taylor, the team’s leading scorer and facilitator, has missed the past seven games with a broken thumb. According to the Sports Injury Clinic, a cast is utilized for three-to-six weeks after the injury is sustained. Thus, it is surprising that the homegrown talent has yet to receive medical clearance.
“No, he is not medically cleared,” said Dawkins. “Not right now.”
Taylor was averaging 16.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 1.4 steals per game prior to injury. Last season, the 6’2″ point guard missed the entire campaign due to a lower leg injury. As a result, the Knights floundered in conference play and went 12-18 overall.
This season, UCF is trying to avoid such an experience, and it shouldn’t be a problem doing so.
This year’s personnel is more experienced than seasons past. Three-point assassins Matt Williams (15.8 PPG & 5.6 RPG) and Tank Efianayi (12.1 PPG & 5.5 RPG) are seniors. Primary ball-handler (without Taylor) A.J. Davis (7.6 PPG, 7.2 RPG, & 2.8 APG) as well as post players Tacko Fall (15.4 PPG & 11.5 RPG) and Chad Brown (5.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG) are all in their second year within the program. Broadly, UCF has too much knowledge and skill within circumstances to revert back to that level of mediocracy.
Earlier in the season, Davis missed the first five games with a broken hand. The Knights played well and experienced their only loss to 2016 National Champions Villanova. Hence, UCF is no stranger to playing short-handed (take yesterday versus Temple for example).
Though, Taylor returning sooner, rather than later, would help for the heart of conference play.
“I know he will be back sometime this season,” Dawkins said. “I know that will happen. It’s just a matter of time for him.”
Currently, the Knights are 5-2 during Taylor’s absence as opposed to 6-1 with the 2014-15 AAC All-Rookie selection in the starting lineup. While no immediate threat arrives in Orlando on Tuesday with East Carolina, tougher challenges are ahead. On January 8, a trip to UConn dots the schedule prior to Houston traveling south for a matchup.
By January 22, the Knights will be immersed in a six-game span that includes a home-and-home with Memphis, hosting SMU, and traveling to southern Ohio to face the only ranked team within the AAC, the 23rd ranked Cincinnati Bearcats.
Obviously, Johnny Dawkins does not want to rush back his superstar. But, to avoid wasting a year of eligibility, Taylor must return by late January.
To receive a medical hardship waiver, a player typically has to play in less than 30 percent of his team’s games. Currently, the Boone High School star has played just 7 games in a 31-game schedule (includes conference tournament). Thus, a tough decision could occur if mid-February arrives and Taylor is still not in the starting lineup.
Hopefully, B.J. Taylor will return within the next two weeks and all of the aforementioned can be chalked up as speculation. Nevertheless, the most anyone can say about the point guard right now is he is “day-to-day” and not medically cleared.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish returned to action Wednesday night after a nine day Christmas break, taking down the Saint Peter’s Peacocks 63-55.
Notre Dame remained in the AP Top 25 in their first game back , checking in at #24.
The (5-7) Peacocks were coming off a win against the St Francis (BKN) Terriers after a three game losing streak that included a loss to the Maryland Terrapins by only 10 points.
Notre Dame was coming off a win as well, taking down the Colgate Raiders before a surprise visit from Matt Farrell’s brother Bo stole the spotlight, as the military solider surprised his younger brother heading into the holiday season.
While some time away from the program was needed as noted by head coach Mike Brey, the Irish squad could not afford to take the Peacocks lightly.
ORLANDO, Fla. — The absence of B.J. Taylor will continue.
Reported by FanRag Sports’ Jon Rothstein, UCF sophomore B.J. Taylor will be unavailable for the Knights’ American Athletic Conference season opener at Tulane. The point guard has missed the last five games with a thumb injury.
The homegrown product is averaging 16.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 1.4 steals per game on the season. The Knights are 3-2 during Taylor’s absence as opposed to 6-1 with 2014-15 AAC All-Rookie selection in the starting lineup.
“There is still no timetable on B.J. but he is getting better,” said UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins following his team’s victory on December 21 versus Bethune-Cookman. “I’m sure he will be back during the season. I don’t see how that won’t happen.”
With Taylor sidelined, redshirt junior A.J. Davis has assumed starting point guard duties. Davis, who has also dealt with an injury this season, has been a statsheet stuffer for the Knights. The Georgia native is averaging 6.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game during his backcourt mate’s absence.
UCF opens up with AAC cellar-dweller Tulane. The Green Wave, led by junior Cameron Reynolds, enter conference play with a 3-9 record.
The Knights’ conference home opener will be December 31 versus Temple. College Court Report will have live coverage from CFE Arena.
– P. Wesner
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