UIC was fortunate to receive a short trip for the first round of the Horizon League Tournament, but the matchup is a toughie. The Flames play Tuesday at Valparaiso, which handily beat the Flames twice in the regular season.
UIC (6-24, 1-15 Horizon) was one of the last teams in college basketball to get a win in conference play. The Flames finally eradicated their goose egg Feb. 25 against Milwaukee. They finished the season with a close loss to third-place Wright State.
Valparaiso (17-14, 9-7) was in a position in mid-February to make a run for its second straight regular season title. But the Crusaders finished the season with a 1-3 record in their final four games.
Valparaiso senior guard LaVonte Dority has been a star all season, averaging 16.2 points and shooting 44.0% from 3-point range. But, he has a history of stellar performances against UIC. Dority recorded a career-high 33 points against the Flames in February, and last season he scored 18 points, a season-high for conference games, against them.
The Crusaders also have a lot of size in their frontcourt, which gave the Flames lots of trouble this year. Senior Moussa Gueye and junior Vashil Fernandez are two of the Horizon League’s best shot blockers.
To pull of the upset, UIC needs a marquee performance from senior guard Kelsey Barlow. Barlow facilitated well in the two regular season games against the Crusaders, but Valparaiso head coach Bryce Drew’s game plan limited Barlow to 10.5 points per contest.
Opening tip is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT.