Flames fans are more hopeful than they've been in years as the seemingly stagnant (and disappointing) UIC basketball team has added four new coaches and seven new players for the 2010-2011 season.
At the top of the list is Howard Moore, former assistant from a proven Wisconsin team, who brings not only buzz and media attention to UIC but also Wisconsin's swing offense and a promised more aggressive man-to-man defensive system.
Bo Ryan's patented swing offense emphasizes the low-post option, and employs several means—switching screens, pass fakes, and "swinging" the ball around the arc to find a hole—of getting the ball to the post for either a layup or a foul. It also tends to rely on a slower tempo.
What Moore has that Jimmy Carter—the Flames' former coach of 14 years—never had is a plan. Moore knows who will start and exactly what system he will work under. This 2010-2011 team under Moore is objectively better than the Flames have been in a long time, and not just because of Moore. There's more.
Eddie Denard - Just Google his name. Denard, 6'7", 222 lbs., is a hometown recruit, and a top Illinois prospect who will bring inside and outside presence and versatility. He won't start this year, but he will eventually.
Paul Carter - Joining the Flames on an NCAA granted hardship waiver from Minnesota where he served as a sixth man, Carter, 6'8", 200 lbs., will be the focus of Moore's swing offense at UIC. He only gets one season in a Flames jersey, but he'll make it count.
Jeremy Buttell - His production—30 percent of UIC's total offensive rebounds, 7.4 rpg, and more than 12 ppg—will be missed at the forward position, but Paul Carter will ably step up.
Chris Buchanan - A UIC sixth man, Buchanan was a reliable bench player.
Spencer Stewart - Although he missed part of the season, Stewart far and away led the Flames in assists last season with almost five per game.
Robo Kreps - Selected to the All-Horizon preseason second team, Kreps, 6'1", 200 lbs., led the Flames in points per game (15.2) with 22 ppg in the final four games of last season, and should continue his dominance at guard.
Zavion Neely - A steals leader with 1.8 spg, Neely, 6'1", 177 lbs., will retain his starting guard spot as a fast inside-outside presence.
K.C. Robbins - Accustomed to being one of the only tall men on the team, Robbins, 6'11", 278 lbs. will see some competition for his center spot this season with towering JUCO transfers Darrin Williams (6'9", 282 lbs.) and Dorian Tyler (6'9", 191 lbs.) looking for minutes. Robbins grabbed four rebounds, and one block per game last season.
Brad Birton - Starting 17 games last season, Birton 6'7", 192 lbs., should start opposite Paul Carter.
Key Non-Conference Victories
This is not the eight-win team of last year, 15 wins shouldn't be difficult for the Flames under Moore. Here are the key victories for 2010-2011.
11/15 vs. Roosevelt - I didn't know they had a basketball team. Turns out this is, in fact, Roosevelt's first season competing on the intercollegiate level as a member of the NAIA.
11/19 at Toledo - The Toledo Rockets won just four games last year—and Flames fans thought eight wins was bad. This year they are returning only three scholarship players with two key newcomers dropping their commitments after the firing of had coach Gene Cross. This should be easier than UIS.
11/24 vs. Central Michigan - The Flames fell to the Chippewas last season 67-48 on terrible 27 percent FG shooting. This year CMU is without its top two scorers.
11/28 vs. Toledo - Once more.
12/11 at Illinois State - ISU (22-11 last season) lost their top three scorers over the break including two first-team all-leaguers.
12/14 at Northern Illinois - The Huskies may surprise a lot of people this year, and they will be a challenge for the Flames, but their stunningly terrible defensive averages—more than 15 turnovers a game, 72 allowed points per game—should let UIC squeak by.
12/22 at Oregon State - Unlikely, right? Last year's upset 63-61 upset by UIC may have been a fluke, but this year OSU is a team composed of newcomers with just two returning seniors.