March Sadness: Central Florida & South Florida Fail to Find NCAA Tournament Success

March Sadness: Central Florida & South Florida Fail to Find NCAA Tournament Success
Fact Checked by Nate Hamilton

With the NCAA Tournament finally over and the Connecticut Huskies crowned as champions for a fifth time, the last month provided college basketball fans with many memorable moments and games.  Despite this, several fanbases annually find themselves at home longing for their team to finally make a postseason run.  

Utilizing, paused Florida sports betting updates and created a point system to determine the saddest college basketball programs in March since the 2009-10 season.  

NCAA Teams Feeling March Sadness

The point system awarded 1 point per NCAA Tournament appearance and 1 point for each round made (note: just reaching the First Four only netted teams a point for a tournament appearance, not a round made). kept the pool of teams studied to those from the nine most consistent multi-bid conferences (the Power 5, Big East, American Athletic, Mountain West and Atlantic-10) for research and equity purposes.  Meet the least successful teams from those leagues over that span:

March Sadness
Rank Schools Points
T1Air Force, Boston College, DePaul, Duquesne, East Carolina, Fordham, San Jose State, Tulane, Washington State0
T10Fresno State, Nebraska, George Washington, UMass2
T14Central Florida, George Mason, Rutgers, South Florida, Southern Methodist3
T19Boise State, Georgia, La Salle, Mississippi State, Northwestern, Rhode Island, Stanford, St. Bonaventure, St. Josephs, Wake Forest4
T29Georgia Tech, Penn State, St. Johns5

UCF Knights Talent Pool Draining

Five Sunshine State schools currently reside in the nine conferences examined (though Final Four darlings Florida Atlantic will join the American from Conference USA on July 1). Still, the two newest programs in that group have struggled to fit in basketball-wise as they have ascended the conference ladder.

Central Florida has played just 39 years at the Division 1 level, with only the last 10 coming in the AAC after spending time in C-USA, the Atlantic Sun, the Sun Belt, the now defunct American South Conference, and as an independent.  The Knights have participated in five NCAA tournaments overall, but just one since leaving the A-Sun in 2005.

That lone tournament appearance came in 2019 when UCF earned a nine seed after going 23-8 in the regular season/AAC tournament. The Knights easily dispatched VCU by 15 in their opening round game before meeting Duke in the second round. There they lost a one-point classic in a game best remembered for the much-hyped Tacko Fall – Zion Williamson matchup.

Since then, head coach Johnny Dawkins has attempted to replicate this success, but the Knights have gone just 64-53 over the last four seasons and failed to crack 20 wins in any of them after going 67-34 and winning at least 19 games every year in Dawkins first three seasons with the program.  UCF finished 2023 at 19-15 and advanced to the 2nd round of the NIT, but they are facing a major rebuild as they transition to the Big 12. 

Star freshman and leading scorer Taylor Hendricks left for the NBA and projects as a likely lottery pick in June’s draft while second-leading scorer C.J. Kelly has exhausted his eligibility.  Starting center Michael Durr also has no eligibility remaining and five scholarship players have entered the portal since the end of the season.  That currently leaves the Knights with just four players on their roster with D1 playing experience as one of their five projected returnees redshirted this year, though they have three high schoolers incoming too. 

How Dawkins fills his five open scholarships will go a long way toward determining how UCF fares as it moves to the best basketball conference in the country.  The 2023-24 projections at college basketball analytics site have the Knights as the 174th ranked team for next year right now, though that is without Ithiel Horton and C.J. Walker factored in and both are expected to return per those close to the team.  Plugging Horton and Walker into Torvik’s RosterCast tool raises them to 83rd in the ratings, but that is still 27 spots behind the second-worst projected team in the Big 12 Oklahoma.

South Florida Bulls Look to New Leader

South Florida has spent 50 seasons at the Division 1 level but has an even worse basketball history than their rivals up I-4. The Bulls own just three NCAA Tournament appearances, only one of which occurred in the last 30 years.  USF has been affiliated with the studied conferences longer than UCF, but they have primarily served as a perennial punching bag. 

Over their 18 seasons in the Big East and AAC, USF has finished with a conference record above .500 precisely once.  The 2011-12 Bulls went 12-6 in the Big East, tying for fourth place in the final year of the 16-team iteration of the league. But, even with that conference record and the fact that nine teams from the Big East earned an NCAA tournament bid that season, USF was still sent to the First Four due to poor play during their non-conference schedule.

The Bulls won that First Four matchup by 11 over Cal, before sliding into the 12 seed in the Midwest in the main bracket and facing Temple in the round of 64.  USF defeated the Owls by 14 and then moved on to meet 13th-seeded Ohio, where the Bobcats claimed a 62-56 victory.  The Bulls have a 36.9 percent overall winning percentage since that loss (127-217).

At 14-18, this past season’s team was the third most successful USF team over the 11 years since their last tournament appearance and it still resulted in head coach Brian Gregory’s firing because he was 79-107 in six seasons with the program (and that included the only winning season the school has had since 2012, a 24-14 2018-19 where the team won the CBI).  Kennesaw State boss Amir Abdur-Rahim is now tasked with leading the Bulls after guiding the Owls to their first-ever NCAA berth just three years removed from a 1-28 season. 

Abdur-Rahim will need to channel the program-building skills he demonstrated there to transform USF’s roster for next season as only three players from this year’s team are confirmed as returning, though they all were involved in the rotation.  Three of the top six players in minutes from his Kennesaw State squad are set to transfer in, including Chris Youngblood, the Owls leading scorer over the past two seasons.  However, that still leaves 7 scholarships to fill although even with only six players on the roster right now the Bulls rank 134th in Torvik’s current projections.

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Josh Markowitz is a freelance writer for He is a lifelong sports fan with an emphasis on basketball, football, baseball and the scouting/evaluation process. A graduate of Elon University's School of Communications, Josh also has experience in television production.

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