UIC plus-minus observations

Continuing my recent look at plus-minus statistics, here are some thoughts about the UIC Flames. The Flames have struggled to a 1-5 record and have yet to defeat a Division I team, but there are some bright spots when you look into plus-minus statistics.
Note: Check here for previous looks at Loyola and Northwestern.
This time I have even more data to play with, including the plus-minus statistics of certain lineups. This all comes from data provided by the UIC Athletics Department.
There is only one player who has played more than 40 minutes and has a positive plus-minus, and it's not Zavion Neely (left). He is -35 this season.
There are some big surprises coming up after the jump.

The starter with the highest plus-minus statistic of any UIC player that has played more than 40 minutes is K.C. Robbins. Robbins is +4 in 113 minutes on the season overall. Sure, that seems like a small number, but when you figure in the fact that the Flames have been outscored by 51 points this season it looks much better in comparison. This statistic matches up very well with the data provided by Big D on the Flames message boards which notes that Robbins has the highest efficiency rating of any Flames player as well. 

Robbins has had a bit of a problem with foul trouble this season. He's committing 3.7 fouls per game while playing 18.8 minutes per game. It's obvious that the junior center (a junior-college transfer) needs to work harder to avoid committing fouls because the Flames need him on the court.
While Robbins has been very effective, his freshman counterpart Louis Green still has a lot to learn. Green has played a little over 50 minutes this season and has a plus-minus of -38. His per 40 minute rate is second worst on the team. His fellow freshman Anthony Kelley has also struggled this season. Kelley is third worst on the team in plus-minus per 40 minutes. He's put up a rating of -24 in 46 minutes.
While Kelley and Robbins' poor numbers are easy to explain due to their inexperience the large negative plus-minus of Robo Kreps is a much more disturbing trend. Kreps has really struggled this season being the go-to guy and it shows in the plus-minus statistics. He has the lowest raw plus-minus of any Flames player at -63. Jeremy Buttell is right before him at -48.
This seems to speak to the struggles the Flames starters have had in general this season. A few teams have gotten on big runs early that have led to UIC's eventual demise. The starters need to be more aware of this and try to limit those runs early in the game, but it doesn't appear that Jimmy Collins or the players have found a way to do that yet.
The addition of Spencer Stewart to the equation may be a key to starting to fix the problem. While Stewart's sample size is very small, the Flames did play even with the Green Bay Phoenix - a very good basketball team - when he was on the court on Saturday. Stewart is a good distributor and a small lineup of Neely, Kreps and Stewart in the backcourt should be able to generate more open shots. 
Finally, it's absolutely amazing how many different lineups Collins has tried this season trying to find a spark from his team. Just two have played more than 10 minutes together and they've had very different results. They are: 
  • Kreps, Neely, Brad Birton, Robbins, Buttell - the "starters" - 53:50 played, -17
  • Kreps, Neely, Birton, Buchanan, Buttell - 16:48, +5
Those numbers there seem a convincing argument for throwing Stewart back into the fire with the Flames as a starter as soon as he's ready. The small lineup can work. 
Personally I'd like to see: Kreps, Neely, Stewart, Robbins and Buttell. That seems to be the most experience, most talented lineup UIC can currently put on the court.

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