Smile Politely

Illinois-UIC preview

UIC (1-5)
13-2 (last Illinois 74-60 UIC, 12/28/13)
Tip-off: December 12th, 1 p.m.

So far this season, UIC has beaten NAIA team Roosevelt and no one else. So, if anyone’s wondering why yet another Illini game is not on traditional television, there’s your answer. This whole game is likely something the team wants nothing to do with because it won’t help RPI and it’s really just something the Board of Trustees says they have to do–likely because of the whole “Our State. Our Team.” thing, which necessitates a game in Chicago, I don’t know.

Anyway, the Flames have had some really poor games so far. Like losing to San Francisco and getting blown out by Central Florida and DePaul. They have a couple players averaging double-digit scoring, but just barely: Dikembe Dixson is at 12.2 and Tai Odiase is at 10.7 points per game. BUT Ken Pom has UIC rated higher than Chicago State, whom Illinois just barely managed to beat in Springfield. Take that as you will.

Leron Black missed the Yale game with swelling in the knee he had meniscus surgery on. Even though he was sorely missed, it would probably serve Illinois best to save him for tougher competition. Plus, it would be good to see more from DJ Williams before Big Ten play starts. The big question, though, is whether John Groce tinkers with the lineup. He used his ninth lineup in 10 games on Wednesday. At some point he has to settle into a groove, right? There are 55 different combinations of healthy players he could potentially use, though…

Projected starters

UIC: Dominique Matthews, guard; Lance Whitaker, guard; Dikembe Dixson, forward; Jake Wiegand, forward; Tai Odiase, center

Illinois: Jaylon Tate, guard; Kendrick Nunn, guard; Aaron Jordan, guard; Malcolm Hill, guard; Michael Finke, forward

Bold prediction

This is the final year of Illinois’s contract with the United Center and the lack of TV and (likely) poor turnout for this game should be enough to kill any hope for a renewal. But, Mark Tupper of the Decatur Herald and Review hears it could be renewed. So, my bold prediction is that the new athletic director, whomever he or she is, will be smart enough to not seek another slate of guaranteed games in Chicago. It’s bold because the decision making at Illinois hasn’t been so great, but it should be easy: Let Illinois earn trips to Chicago in prestigious nonconference invites or NCAA games.

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