When Howard Moore was hired as the head coach of the Illinois-Chicago men’s basketball program in 2010 nobody knew what to expect. After guiding the team to a 15-46 record in his first two years combined (2010-2012), nobody was expecting much. But last season, all of that changed when Moore led the UIC Flames to it’s first postseason appearance in nine years. Even better, he also guided the Flames to their first postseason victory in school history (An 80-69 victory over Chicago State in the first round of the College Insider Tournament).
Now that Moore has accomplished something that the legendary Jimmy Collins couldn’t (no disrespect intended), there are even bigger expectations of the 2013-2014 UIC Flames. Last year the team was led by guards Daniel Barnes and Gary Talton with support from center Josh Crittle. The three of them graduated at the end of last season so Moore will have to look elsewhere for leadership.
The good thing is that Barnes, Talton and Crittle had support from role players who will now take over the team’s leadership. Players like junior center Will Simonton, senior forward Hayden Humes and junior guard Marc Brown will have to step forward and put the weight of the world on their shoulders.
The new role players this year will feature guys such as junior forward Ahman Fells, sophomore center Jake Wiegand (who earned his stripes as a freshman) and junior guard Joey Miller. Coach Moore also brought in two solid transfers to add depth to the roster in the form of forward/center Jordan Harks (Central Arkansas) and guard Kelsey Barlow (Purdue).
Depth and talent will be important for the Flames especially when they take on Horizon League powerhouses Detroit and Valparaiso. They will also have their hands full with Wisconsin-Green Bay and Wright State who gave them fits last year. Depth will also be important in UIC’s front court especially when taking on teams like Valparaiso. Last year the Crusaders dominated in the paint even with guys like Crittle and Simonton on defense.
This year the Flames will have a slightly better chance in that regard because this year’s roster includes eight players that measure between 6-5 and 6-10. UIC will also have plenty of perimeter play as well with guys like Brown, Barlow and Fells. If the Flames can win at least 10 conference games this season it will help them get into the postseason again.
They have the talent and the coaching to do it, it’s just a matter of putting everything together to string up some victories. 20 wins should be an ideal goal for the Flames if they want to get into a postseason tournament. With University Village expecting an even bigger performance from Coach Moore’s squad this year, they should strive for a bigger tournament than the CIT. If UIC can reach the postseason for the second straight year it would be the first time in school history for that to happen.
For now however, they just need to take it one game at a time. The Flames play the University of Chicago in an exhibition next Saturday. They open the regular season on November 9th at home against Drake.
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