The Youngstown State University men's basketball team (8-5) begins Horizon League play in the Windy City on Wednesday against the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames (UIC). The Flames (9-4) started out 9-1 but have since lost three consecutive games to Western Illinois, Miami (OH) and Toledo, all by double digits.
The matchup will feature YSU's scoring offense, ranked second in the league (73.8 PPG) going up against UIC's second-ranked scoring defense (57.1 PPG). Offensively speaking, YSU and UIC share a love of shooting the three-point shot. Look for the Penguins and Flames to guard the three-point arc quite closely, allowing for greater scoring chances for the two big men on each team, Youngstown State's Damian Eargle (12.3 PPG) and Illinois-Chicago's Josh Crittle (9.5 PPG).
According to an analysis conducted today by NYCBuckets.com consisting of 10,000 simulations, Youngstown State is projected to finish with 9.1 conference wins this year while Illinois-Chicago is projected to finish with 8.5 conference wins, good for third and fourth in the Horizon League, respectively.
Due to the fact that Horizon League teams are a combined 47-4 at home this season, I expect Illinois-Chicago to be a single-digit favorite in this contest. Massey has UIC defeating YSU by a 67-61 margin while RealTimeRPI has the margin much greater at 71-57 in favor of the Flames.
I look for a back-and-forth contest with a number of lead changes throughout. Two weeks ago, I would have projected a double-digit victory for UIC, but the past three losses for the Flames against inferior competition have not been pretty.
Although it may be a bit early to say this, it appears that the Flames have cooled off quite a bit (no pun intended) over their past three contests and have come back down to earth after that tremendous start. I expect Kendrick Perry and Blake Allen to lead Youngstown State to a huge road win to start off conference play, 68-64.