After a successful 10-3 start to the season including a win over then-fourth ranked Connecticut, the UCF Knights kick off Conference USA play this evening in Orlando as they host Tulane. This season marks UCF's seventh season in conference USA and the Knights are coming off back to back ninth place finishes within the conference that has been dominated by the Memphis basketball program.
Last season, UCF began conference play on the heels of a 13-0 start to the season with an opening win against Marshall, but went on to go just 5-11 in their remaining conference games including a loss in the opening round of the CUSA tournament to East Carolina. Over the past two seasons, UCF has won just 12 of its last 34 games against Conference USA opponents.
They do own a 6-2 lifetime record against Tulane including a perfect record in Orlando. Tulane comes into this game with a 12-2 record built on the back of one of the easiest strengths of schedules in the nation. Of the 345 Division I teams, Tulane has the the third softest strength of schedule to date. Tulane has a balanced scoring attack with four players in double figures on the season led by Kendall Timmons who is scoring 13.7 points per contest. UCF has yet to lose a home game this season while Tulane is 2-2 on the road with wins at Navy and San Diego and losses top-ranked Syracuse and Wofford. UCF is favored by six in this contest but has failed to cover the spread in its last three games.
UCF will be without head coach Donnie Jones for the first three games of conference play as he serves out a school-imposed suspension related to the NCAA allegations surrounding the schools' potential recruiting violations. Shawn Finney, who was once the head coach of Tulane, will assume the coaching duties until Jones returns in time to face Marshall in Huntington, West Virginia.
Should Keith Clanton score 16 points tonight, he would become the 15th player in program history to score 1000 or more points and the first player since Jermaine Taylor's departure to do so.