Can the Flames finally reach their potential and win the Horizon League?
For each of the past two seasons, it has felt like the Flames have been on the cusp of greatness in the Horizon League. They have had arguably the most talented team in the league but have failed to put all the pieces together. Now that the strong 2017 freshman class has reached its senior season, the question becomes: Can the Flames finally reach their potential and win the Horizon League?
The 2018-19 season began with so much hope. While the previous season the Flames finished 3rd in the League, they managed to make it to the CIT Championship Game before falling to Northern Colorado. It seemed like maybe they could carry that momentum over and go on a run. Unfortunately things did not go as planned. A 6-7 non-conference record started the season on a sour note. They went on to meander through conference play and finish with a 10-8 record and immediately lost to Green Bay in Motor City Madness.
Some of the disappointment last season could be due to losing key cogs in their machine. Dikembe Dixson and Tai Odiase were both important contributors on that 20 win UIC team. Now that the team has had a season to adjust to their absence maybe they can transform their immense potential into reality. Despite losing Irish Forward Jordan Blount to injury, this team is loaded with talent across the board.
Incoming Freshman Brian Taylor may not have been brought in with much fanfare but he could provide some nice value. A 6-5 combo guard, Taylor brings some series size and surprising athleticism to the roster. He has a reputation as a smart and efficient player that will surprise you with his production. Taylor may receive a surprising opportunity for playing time. While he will not start, the depth behind the starting guards is quite thin and Taylor could potentially lock down a significant reserve role.
Bridges is a tall and lanky juco forward who will probably ride the bench. He did not see much playing time at Northwest Florida Junior College so it is hard to form much of an opinion besides his general size and skills. While his 6-11 height is impressive, he has not done much at the collegiate level. That leads me to assume his role is more of a sparring partner for the bigs in practice than an actual role player on the team.
Godwin Boahen – Senior
Marcus Ottey – Senior
Tarkus Ferguson – Senior
Rob Howard – Senior
Michael Diggins – Junior
This is the make or break season for Steve McClain. While his job may not be on the line, if this team does not make a run it is hard to envision it ever happening. The Starting 5 is more talented than almost any roster in the league but throughout their careers they have been consistently inconsistent. This team needs to find a way to make all of the individually talented pieces fit together to create a functional team.
This team will start off slow in non-conference play and the prognosticators will foretell doom. Then, slowly but surely they will improve and really hit the gas in league play. I would expect no less than a third-place finish during the regular season and a deep run in the Horizon League Tournament.
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