The highly anticipated third season of Wes Miller as the head coach of the University of Cincinnati men’s basketball team is set to kick off on Monday night at 9 p.m. The Bearcats will be facing off against the Flames of Illinois-Chicago in what promises to be an exciting game.
After finishing last season with a record of 23-13 (11-7 AAC), the Bearcats advanced to the quarterfinals of the NIT before falling to Utah Valley University. With two starters returning from last year’s team, along with some transfers and first-year players, this season in the Big 12 conference is shaping up to be an interesting one.
The excitement surrounding the Bearcats is further heightened by the potential eligibility of senior transfers Aziz Bandaogo and Jamille Reynolds. Both players have had their NCAA waiver claims denied despite following guidelines related to mental health reasons for their moves. Their appeals are currently pending, and the team, players, and Coach Miller are anxiously awaiting the results.
On the other side of the court, the Illinois-Chicago Flames come into this game with a record of 12-20 (4-16 Missouri Valley) from last season. Coached by Luke Yaklich, the Flames averaged 67.6 points per game on offense and 71.7 points per game on defense.
The projected lineup for the Flames includes Jordan Brownell, Isaiah Rivera, Toby Okani, Filip Skobali, and Marquise Kennedy, who all had solid contributions during the previous season. Meanwhile, the Bearcats’ lineup is expected to feature Viktor Lakhin, Ody Oguama, Simas Lukošius, C.J. Fredrick, and Day Day Thomas.
Two players to watch in this game are Toby Okani from the Flames and Simas Lukošius from the Bearcats. Okani was the top scorer for UIC last season, averaging 11.6 points per game along with 6.8 rebounds per game. Lukošius, a transfer from Butler, had a strong season with the Bulldogs, averaging 11.6 points per game and recording a season-high 28-point performance against Villanova.
The keys to the game for the Bearcats will be to play fast but maintain control, as they are known for their athleticism and depth. Coach Miller believes in a high-paced style of play that can lead to consistent success. Additionally, the team hopes to feed off the energy from the crowd and the return of the popular Nike/Jordan Brand uniforms.
In terms of rankings, the Bearcats finished last season at No. 63 in the NCAA NET rankings, while UIC ended at No. 288. In the preseason, the Bearcats are currently ranked No. 53 according to KenPom, with UIC at No. 243.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that the UC women’s basketball team, coached by Katrina Merriweather, will also be playing on Monday evening. They will be facing off against No. 17 Louisville at 6 p.m. This game will also be featured on ESPN+ and can be listened to on iHeart Radio via WSAI 1360 or The Project 100.7/106.3. The UC women’s team is coming off a 76-38 victory in their opening exhibition game against Ohio Dominican.
In summary, the UC Bearcats are set to embark on their third season under Coach Wes Miller with high expectations. With an intriguing mix of returning players, transfers, and newcomers, the team is poised for a successful season in the Big 12 conference. The matchup against the Illinois-Chicago Flames is just the beginning of what promises to be an exciting journey for the Bearcats and their fans.
Laura Davis covers the world of basketball with precision. Her articles explore NBA and college basketball, offering game analysis, player profiles, and highlights. Laura’s passion for hoops is evident in her comprehensive basketball coverage.