When the UCF Knights men’s basketball team takes the court Thursday night, they’ll do so as the only team in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) Tournament with one distinct advantage over the 11 other participating schools. They’ll do it with home court advantage.
Thanks in large part to the partnership between UCF, the Central Florida Sports Commission (CFSC), the City of Orlando, and Orange County, the tournament will take place right here in downtown Orlando, at the Amway Center. This year will serve as the second part of an agreement between the partnership and the AAC, which allows the City Beautiful to serve as tournament host for the second time in three years. Orlando also hosted this event in 2016.
The efforts to bring big events, such as NCAA conference tournaments, to Orlando, is one of the main focuses of the Central Florida Sports Commission and CEO Jason Siegel.
“Our mission to drive sports tourism and economic impact for Lake, Osceola, Seminole, Orange County and the City of Orlando.”” Siegel said in a recent sit down interview. And it appears the AAC Tournament will be doing just that.
“Of the first 6,500 tickets sold to this event, 6,000 of them were from out of market schools.” Siegel said.
He also detailed the Commission’s objectives of continuing to remain competitive in bids to bring more major marquee sporting events to town. He cited the recent success of WrestleMania, as a particular example. The NCAA will continue to play a major role in the Commission’s long range plans, as conversations for future tournament sites at both conference and championship levels are ongoing.
Other contributors to the Commission’s future successes include governing bodies of various USA Olympic sports. Siegel said as many as a dozen different sports will have Orlando to consider when planning future regional, national, and international competitions for their respective sports.
Major amateur sports, such as AAU championships and other forms of collegiate showcases will also continue to consider Orlando. Siegel pointed to a recent soccer showcase that took place in Seminole County, which drew more than 500 collegiate soccer coaches. Orlando is already home to such events as the Under Armor All-American Game, which brings the nation’s best high school football talent to Camping World Stadium for their version of a high school all-star weekend.
Now in its 25th year, the CFSC has seemingly proved to the entire country, that Orlando can be a gracious host for just about any level of competition, at any sport. That’s a true honor and a blessing for a city who didn’t event break into professional sports until the advent of the Orlando Magic in 1989, just 29 short years ago.
For more information about the CFSC and upcoming events in the Orlando area, visit their website at centralfloridasports.org.
In some cases, the madness of March has already begun. For the UCF Knights men’s basketball team, their journey towards an NCAA Tournament berth gets under way Thursday at the AAC Tournament at Amway Center.
The Knights earned the tournaments sixth seed, finishing the regular season with a conference record of 9-9 (.500). With an overall record of 18-12, the formula now, is simple. Earn four wins in as many days – thus, winning the tournament and earning the automatic NCAA Tournament bid that comes along with that.
The Knights face 11th seed, East Carolina, in the first round Thursday at 9PM.
The 12-team conference is comprised of some of college basketball’s highest ranked, and well respected brands. Entering conference tournament play, three AAC teams are ranked inside the Associated Press Top 25, with the Cincinnati Bearcats ranking highest at eighth.
Conference newcomers, the Wichita State Shockers, are no strangers to March Madness. The Shockers come to Orlando ranked 11th nationally and carry the second seed into the AAC tournament. After a first round bye, they will face the winner of Thursday’s game between 5th seeded Memphis, and the 12th seed USF Bulls.
Game 1: #8 UCONN vs. #9 Southern Methodist University; Noon, ESPNU
Game 2: #5 Memphis vs. #12 University of South Florida; 2PM, ESPNU
Game 3: #7 Temple vs. #10 Tulane; 7PM, ESPNU
Game 4: #6 UCF vs. #11 ECU; 9PM, ESPNU
Game 5: #1 Cincinnati vs. winner of Game 1
Game 6: #4 Tulsa vs. winner of Game 2
Game 7: #2 Wichita State vs. winner of Game 3
Game 8: #3 Houston vs. winner of Game 4