Around Chicago college basketball

Jordan Hicks smiling

Loyola, UIC and Chicago State all played on Saturday with varying results. Here's a quick wrap-up of the games and what they might mean in the grand scheme of things.

Game 1: Loyola 82, Western Michigan 64 -- This was the Ramblers' first road test of the season and they passed it with flying colors. Loyola went to Kalamazoo, MI and proved that the first four games at the Gentile Center weren't a fluke. A 15-0 run at the end of the first half keyed Loyola's surge and it came off of three-pointers from Jordan Hicks and Geoff McCammon and strong play from Ben Averkamp.
The return of Hicks has made Loyola a much better team. The Ramblers have a more complete team with the 6'6 swingman getting more and more comfortable again since returning from injury. Hicks' return gives the Ramblers four legitimate options on offense at almost any moment in the game, which is how runs like last night's come.

It seems like Jim Whitesell has settled into an 8-man rotation, with point guard Courtney Stanley being the only player that's going to play more than 30 minutes per night. 
The computer metrics are starting to notice Loyola's improvement. Ken Pomeroy now ranks Loyola as the 115th best team in the NCAA and project Loyola to go 20-9 and 11-7 in the Horizon League. In fact, Loyola is now the 3rd highest rated team in the league behind Butler and Cleveland State.
Of course, Loyola fans have seen this before, the Ramblers started hot last season before falling off in league play, until the first weekend of Horizon League play at home against Butler and Valparaiso the questions will linger.
Game 2: College of Charleston 78, UIC 66 -- Robo Kreps played all 40 minutes and scored 26 points, but the Flames dropped this game which was played in Toledo, OH as part of the 2K Sports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
Kreps was 8-12 from the floor and Paul Carter played what might be his best game as a Flame to date with 17 points on 7-18 shooting plus 11 rebounds. The real thing to note here is that Howard Moore is starting to drastically shorten his rotation. Four players played 30 plus minutes against the Cougars and just three guys came off the bench. It looks like the center minutes will be split between Darrin Williams and K.C. Robbins, but the other guys will be on the court for as long as their legs can carry them.
Game 3: BYU 109, Chicago State 60 -- The Cougars ran into a buzz saw named Jimmer Fredette (who ironically plays for the Cougars of BYU) and dropped this game, which was played in Provo, UT. Of course these non-conference games for the Cougars aren't designed to earn victories, the reality is competitiveness and team building are far more important.
Victor Scott has been a positive this season for Chicago State. He scored 17 points against BYU. Carl Montgomery struggled with 4 fouls and played just 20 minutes. He went 1-of-6 from the floor and scored 2 points. Antonio Lofton also got into double-figures with 13 points.
Even though these teams are much better in quality that the Cougars will face during Great West Conference play it would be nice if Chicago State could play a bit stronger on defense. Games to watch for a better sense of the Cougars' situation are Friday, Nov. 26 against Georgia Southern and Friday, Dec. 10 against Central Arkansas.

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