You'll notice that there's a new voice writing sometimes about UIC Flames basketball for Chicago College Basketball over the next few months. Chris Burrows has been writing over at Fanning the Flames since November, and has been covering UIC from well before that for the Chicago Flame and other outlets. I'm excited to have him here. First up is a look at UIC's games this weekend in Wisconsin.
coach Howard Moore is seeing a lot of teams for the first time in his rookie
season at the UIC helm, but that won't be the case when UIC travels to Wisconsin
As an assistant at Wisconsin, Moore went up against Milwaukee and Green Bay three times apiece over his last three seasons in the Big Ten, going 5-1 with an OT loss to UWGB in 2009.
So what has he (hopefully) learned?
Also a former Bo Ryan assistant, Rob Jeter and his Butler-upsetting Milwaukee Panthers (8-9, 3-3 HL) live on the edge, well, the perimeter, a big turnaround
from a supposedly three-less Detroit. The Panther backcourt attempts more threes than anyone in the Horizon in conference play, and sinks them at a 35.8 percent clip.
Gone is the high-powered offense of the Panthers we once knew, but Tone Boyle (12.9 ppg), back for his senior year after sitting out injured last season, is the
trey machine that Robo Kreps wishes he could be, alongside a balanced
frontcourt. Boyle's incredibly low 9.4 percent TO rate is no mistake; he takes shots (115 attempts from the arc!) not assists.
One of the Horizon's most underrated PGs, Kaylon Williams (8.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.6 apg) who tallied Milwaukee's first triple-double since 1983 in their win over Butler will be the difference-maker for the Panthers, while frontcourter Anthony Hill (12.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg) leads a mediocre defensive unit (sixth in the Horizon) underneath.
Lucky for the Flames, big man Darrin Williams is hopeful for a return (he's been out with an arm infection), and he'll give the paint plenty of action even without nutpunch-gate's suspended Brad Birton. Unfortunately that's not where Milwaukee does their business.
The key to beating Milwaukee is an effective shot defense; eight of the Panthers' nine losses have come when they shot less than 40 percent from the floor. UIC's mixed bag defense (man, 1-3-1, 2-3, none) is letting teams sink a too-high 44.4 percent.
UIC may be close to their first Horizon League win, but 7 p.m. Thursday at the Klotsche Center isn't their best chance. The Flames just don't match up well against perimeter-driven teams like Milwaukee that dominate the glass.
Saturday at Green Bay's Resch Center may be the day, re-scheduling aside.
While re-scheduling NCAA basketball games in favor of NFL playoff games is likely a de-valuing experience exclusive to mid-major conferences, rigorous scheduling made more rigorous by Packers fans is a Horizon League exclusive.
now-early morning (11 a.m.) outing against first-year head coach Brian Wardle's Green
Bay Phoenix (8-9, 2-3) is the final stop on the Flames' Wisconsin tour, 39 hours after getting hassled in Milwaukee. The Phoenix tout a 6-2 record at home and a less efficient
defense (105.0) than even UIC.
Yes, Green Bay did just beat Milwaukee at home and they are the best offensive board grabbing team in the Horizon, but the Flames, with all five starters this time, can win this one in the post.
The Green Bay offense, while efficient at 1.03 ppp, is bad at sinking threes (worst in the Horizon) and allows their opponents the highest defensive rebounding percentage in the Horizon. Also, 7'1" freshman center Alec Brown (8.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg) aside, the Phoenix aren't a big team.
Green Bay's offensive main act, 5'10" senior Rahmon Fletcher (16.2 ppg) will have some real problems inside tangling with Paul Carter, K.C.Robbins, and Darrin Williams. He's got outside issues too, knocking down a raw 38.3 percent from the floor.
If UIC falls to Milwaukee as predicted, they'll be fighting hard to snap a six game skid when they get to
Green Bay. If ever there was an analogous pre-cursor to a Bears-Packers NFC Championship, this is it, turnovers and all.
Wisconsin may love their Packers, but a little-known hero is returning to stake his claim at home. The Badger State used to be Howard Moore's for the winning; Now his ever-improving team
has a chance to surprise some folks up north.