Sept. 1, 2009
By Marc Daniels
The answer is two.
The question is how many UCF basketball players were born when George H.W. Bush defeated Michael Dukakis in the 1988 presidential election. Get the picture? Kirk Speraw has a team filled with talent and potential, but it also will be one of the youngest squads in the country and it is about to face maybe the toughest schedule in the program's history.
The lineup of games features non-conference road matchups against the likes of Connecticut, Notre Dame, Ole Miss and USF. Throw in neutral site games with Auburn, Niagara and Drake, and home games against UMass and potentially Buffalo or Jacksonville, and you have the makings of a big-time challenge for Kirk's team.
Connecticut will likely be a top-10 team when the Knights face them in December and Notre Dame will likely fill a poll position for the game earlier that month. Auburn won 24 games last season and Ole Miss will be healthy after losing, what seemed like, half of its team to season-ending knee injuries last year.
What makes the schedule even tougher are games against teams you may not know much about. Niagara was 26-9 last season in the tough MAAC. Drake was 16-15 coming out of the Missouri Valley. And the Knights could face Jacksonville or Buffalo in the UCF Holiday Classic. Buffalo won the MAC regular season title and Jacksonville took the crown in the Atlantic Sun.
Oh, did we mention the conference schedule features likely preseason favorite Tulsa twice? And the Conference USA slate also includes home-and-home matchups with Houston and an improving East Carolina team, and UCF will have to travel to Memphis, who still is loaded with top- 25 talent.
I hear Kirk tried to get the Lakers for a home-and-home, but the dates could not work.
But just because the schedule is tough, it does not mean this young team will not be successful. It just means some of UCF's newest players need to adapt to the college game quickly.
A.J. Rompza, Isaac Sosa, A.J. Tyler, Taylor Young and other returnees must get their fellow teammates up to speed quickly. How fast Keith Clanton, Marcus Jordan, Nik Garcia and rest of the rookies pick things up will go a long way towards battling the early season lineup of games.
The future is bright because of the talent that is now here. But that talent will be tested by some of the nation's best. But that should make this team better and mentally tough by the time the C-USA schedule comes around.
It should be fun to watch the young Knights grow quickly.
Marc Daniels' From the Pressbox runs several times per month on UCFAthletics.com. Listen to Marc during UCF football, men's basketball and baseball radio broadcasts on the UCF-ISP Sports Network. Each weekday, Marc hosts "The Beat of Sports" on ESPN 1080 in Orlando from 9-11 a.m.