Besides the fact that the headline rhymes, I thought I'd take a look at UIC in the tempo-free world because one of the big questions with the transition from Jimmy Collins to Howard Moore was, "Will the offense be better?" Spoiler alert! The answer is no.
UIC's offense is still struggling, with a 96.1 offensive rating overall as a team through eight games. The defense hasn't really improved either. In fact, in a tempo-free world this team looks almost identical.
So why is this team 4-4 instead of 2-6 like last season? Strength of schedule. The Flames have played Toledo twice (#330 in Ken Pom) and Roosevelt (a Division II school). Those are three wins the team had to have. Still, UIC's victory over Rhode Island keeps looking better and better. The Rams look like a really good team.
But enough about that, after the jump it's time to dive into the statistics and discover how the offense could possibly improve.
One of the things that was supposed to help the UIC offense was the addition of Paul Carter. The transfer from Minnesota has played well for the Flames. He's got the highest usage rate on team at 27.3 percent, which is way up from his days with the Golden Gophers. His offensive rating has consequently fallen from 102.1 to 99.9 this season. Honestly, that's still really good. For instance, a 99.9 rating amongst players that used 28 percent of possessions last season would've ranked Carter 65th overall. While he's not quite at that usage rate, it speaks to how difficult it is to be efficient at that level of volume.
If Carter wants to improve that rating he'll have to take easier shots. His effective field goal percentage is 45.8 percent this season, but it was 53.2 percent last season. That's because last season Carter attempted 32 three-point attempts all season, but he's already attempted 30 this year. I'd like to see him put the ball on the deck and go inside more against weaker competition.
The next two highest possession users on UIC are K.C. Robbins and Robo Kreps. The interesting thing about Robbins is that his offensive rating has improved dramatically from a season ago. It's now 98.7, even though he's using a much higher percent of the possessions when he's on the court. It seems like he has a much more refined post game this season. In fact, playing Robbins more would be a good way for UIC to inject some more life into the offense. It's also worth noting that Robbins has been the team's best defensive rebounder this season.
For Kreps, the transition to point guard seems to be going well. He's still using a large number of possessions and playing a ton of minutes, but his assist rate has also risen. Unfortunately his turnover rate has gone up this season as well. His overall offensive rating though hasn't taken a hit because his shooting percentages have risen in Moore's system.
So with the addition of Carter and the improvement of Kreps and Robbins why is the team still struggling on offense? Some of the other key players.
For one, Jeremy Buttell hasn't really been replaced. Buttell was by far UIC's most efficient offensive player last season and no one's really been able to replace his work in the post, which is one of the reasons Carter should go down there more and Robbins should get a longer look. Darrin Williams could be that guy eventually, but he's turning the ball over at way too high a rate.
And then there is Zavion Neely. His usage rate has dropped a bit this season, but struggles with his shot early in the season have sunk his offensive rating. His effective field goal percentage is a miserable 39.4 percent. Most of that is because he's shooting just 22.7 percent (5-of-22) from three-point range. If Neely finds his three-point stroke later in the season it's possible the offense could improve dramatically.
Finally, I'd like to give a shout out to Brad Birton. He's played 72.6 percent of UIC's minutes and used just 29 possessions. He has an offensive rating of 122.6 because he grabs offensive rebounds and shoots a lot of high percentage shots. But since he's battling in the paint, he's got a ridiculously high turnover percentage. Still, Birton is a perfect glue guy. He doesn't need a lot of possessions to get his offense, rebounds well and has even managed to pass well in Moore's system. He deserves credit for the work he's doing.
We'll check back on the UIC offense later this season to see if it improves, but for right now it's a new system and new ideas, but similar results.