Illinois-Chicago has a history of being a strong program, having been to the NCAA Tournament three of the past seven years. The Flames (5-5) will be Akron's opponent Saturday at 4 p.m. in Chicago.
They return four starters and five reserves from a 16-15 team that beat Mississippi and Georgia Tech but struggled through a six-game losing streak in the middle of last season.
Here is how the starting five breaks down...
Collins uses a 10-man rotation of players who can all expect to play at least 15 minutes per game. Depth is certainly a strength, and that should help the Flames once they enter the Horizon League portion of their schedule.
Other important cogs include...
This season, the Flames have struggled at rebounding and defense. Opposing teams have been able to cash in on second-chance points. Coach Collins also mentioned the team needs to close out on 3-point shooters better.
Illinois-Chicago is much better than a 5-5 team. The Flames are beatable, but the Zips won't do it by playing like they did against Winston-Salem State. Coach Keith Dambrot rarely allows his team to play sloppy on consecutive nights. I won't make a prediction just yet, but I think Akron will win as long as Nate Linhart and the guards can limit Jeffers and Mayo from having huge games.