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WE’RE NUMBER ONE (hundred and one)!

The University of Central Florida is dancing after all. But while the NCAA Tournament is considered the Big Dance, maybe the College Basketball Invitational Tournament is more like a barn dance in Mizzura. But hey, it’s still postseason play. There are 212 Division I teams that have absolutely nowhere to go and would love to still be on the court vying for something more than bragging rights. So buck up, UCF; put on your best pair of scootin’ shoes and get out there!

(Speaking of dancing, kudos to the women’s team for representing. It has quite a challenge ahead, playing in Ohio against the Buckeyes.)

UCF fans probably weren’t looking toward the CBI after the Knights began their season with a cool 14 consecutive wins; I now I wasn’t.  All of those wins weren’t against pushovers as the Knights got the better of three teams in the current championship tournament: Florida, Princeton and Alabama State. They also put Miami and South Florida up on the walls of their cabin. The Knights garnered a top-20 ranking in the national polls and an absurd seed in an early projection of the field of 68.

Then, as spectacular as was their rise, the Knights fell back to the earth with a resounding thud in conference play. They lost their first seven games in Conference USA and wound up as the ninth seed in the conference tournament, which was a one-and-done affair for UCF.

The Knights were a part of March Madness in 2004 and 2005, and it will be there again in time. But this edition is a relatively young team that just spent its first year under the coaching of Donnie Jones. No disrespect to Tom Herzog, A.J. Tyler or Taylor Young, but the Knights lacked senior presence in 2011. With enhanced leadership and another year listening to Jones, they won’t suffer another epic collapse in 2012.

Back to the current situation … 19 wins is a decent total, obviously well enough to land you in a tournament that can’t compete with the 32-team NTI, but can still look down upon the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. Yeah, what a joke of a field that is, right? Pssssh!

Looking at the CBI bracket, I have seen only two of the teams other than UCF play this year, and both of them are noticeably better than the Knights. Boise State, while falling short numerous times, played some close games this year against UNLV and Utah State. The Broncos put together a 10-6 mark in the WAC. I saw Oregon demolish UCLA at the Pac-10 Tournament last week. E.J. Singler is just a sophomore and is developing into quite a player for the Quack Attack. He’s not as talented as his older brother at Duke, but he’ll be someone to watch next season.

I’m cautiously optimistic that my alma mater can take care of the Bonnies, but I’m wary past that, especially after the Knights found a way to lose 11 of their final 16 games. Of course, anything can happen since most of the results in these secondary tournaments usually depend on a team’s actual desire to play. Some couldn’t care less about anything outside of a shot for the national championship. Everything else feels like an exhibition. It is treated as such by many more-accomplished squads.

I look forward to checking out the Knights tonight at 5 over here in Southern California on HDNet (hit up your cable or satellite provider, son). At least, I’ll make time for it during commercial breaks of USC vs. VCU because, you know, that is the BIG Dance.

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