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Maturing Flames oozing potential

FIRST LOOK: UIC preview, Horizon picks

By Mike Pankow

November 10, 2017

Mike Pankow/Whoosh!

Dikembe Dixson returns from a knee injury and is a top contender for Horizon League Player of the Year.

It’s been nearly 14 years since UIC has played in the NCAA tournament.

The 2017-18 Flames have some great pieces, but can they complete the puzzle and win the Horizon League title?

In coach Steve McClain’s third season, UIC could finally be ready.

The Flames had five victories two years ago. In Year 2 of the McClain era, UIC won 17 games, including two postseason games in the College Basketball Invitational – and most of that happened without the Flames’ best player Dikembe Dixson.

After Dixson suffered a season-ending left knee injury against DePaul in December, other players emerged. The Flames actually beat the Blue Demons as several young players began to ascend, including point guards Tarkus Ferguson, Marcus Ottey and Godwin Boahen. Dominique Matthews found his rhythm late in the season at shooting guard while Tai Odiase continued to mold himself into the Horizon League’s top defensive player and an improved offensive force.

With Dixson back healthy and a great supporting cast, the Flames open their journey back to prominence against North Carolina Center at the UIC Pavilion on Friday night.

Here’s a look at the Horizon League Preseason Poll with Whoosh!’s official vote, plus a couple of preview videos with McClain from the Chicago Basketball Luncheon last month:

2017-18 HORIZON LEAGUE PREDICTED FINISH
HL POLL WHOOSH!
1. 1.
2. 2.
3. 3.
4. 4.
5. 5.
6. 6.
7. 7.
8. 8.
9. 9.
10. 10.

FIRST-TEAM ALL-HORIZON
HORIZON LEAGUE POLL WHOOSH!
Drew McDonald, NKU* Dikembe Dixson, UIC*
Jalen Hayes, Oakland Drew McDonald, NKU
Martez Walker, Oakland Jalen Hayes, Oakland
Dikembe Dixson, UIC Cameron Morse, YSU
Cameron Morse, YSU Kendrick Nunn, Oakland

SECOND-TEAM ALL-HORIZON
HORIZON LEAGUE POLL WHOOSH!
Corey Allen, UDM Tai Odiase, UIC
Jaleel Hogan, UDM Martez Walker, Oakland
Lavone Holland, NKU Lavone Holland, NKU
Kendrick Nunn, Oakland Brock Stull, Milwaukee
Tai Odiase, UIC Corey Allen, Detroit

*-Preseason Player of the Year vote

SEASON-PREVIEW VIDEOS

In other recent news:
EXHIBITION: UIC 97, St. Francis 62: Hop aboard the hype train (11/6/17)
McClain earns faith from UIC (4/20/17)
Taking it on the ‘Chin’ (4/17/17)
Shocking exodus: Santos, Kolawole, Thomas leaving (3/30/17)
CBI: Coastal Carolina 89, UIC 78: Bittersweet ending (3/23/17)