Here's another in the series previewing the women's post-season tournament games:
FRIDAY'S 9:30 a.m. Quarterfinal-round contest
No. 2 Loyola (15-3, 18-11) vs. the winner of Thursday's Canisius-Niagara contest.
WHAT LOYOLA HAS: Arguably the best perimeter players in the league and unquestionably the league's best point guard in sophomore Katie Sheahin (a glaring omission from the league's first-team all-star selections), who not only leads the conference in steals (3.6 per game), but is 2nd nationally. She also ranks 2nd in the MAAC in assists, while scoring 11.9 points and getting 5.8 rebounds per game. Her perimeter partners, 5-9 Miriam McKenzie (14.2 points, 7.2 rebound and a first-team all-MAAC pick) and 5-11 Erica DiClemente, who plays like the fifth-year senior that she is, complete the trio.
WHAT LOYOLA DOESN'T HAVE: An inside game to match its perimeter attack. The Greyhounds rank 7th in the league in rebounding and 5th in several defensive categories. It's indicative of how opponents take advantage of having an edge in the paint. That said, Loyola's only two losses until Sunday came against Marist. But, a loss to Saint Peter's on Sunday ... at home ... might be a sign of its vulnerability. And, when the ball isn't in Sheahin's hands the offense struggles. McKenzie leads the conference in turnovers (143), by far.
HOW LOYOLA CAN WIN: Keeping Sheahin out of foul trouble and the ball in her hands. It also helps that McKenzie has an inside/outside game that allows her to take over the offense load at key junctures, and that DiClemente seems to know when and how to deliver in clutch situations. There might be enough here to somehow upset Marist, if the teams meet. The Greyhounds, though, will literally need big efforts out of its slender front-court starters Meredith Tolley and Alyssa Sutherland to have any chance to win the tournament. But head coach Joe Frager, without much of an inside game and with a team lacking quality depth, turned in one of the best coaching efforts in the conference in recent years. Still, if Canisius gets past Niagara to advance to this game its height could present an interesting matchup.
WHAT'S AT STAKE: An advance to the semifinal round to meet the winner of the Manhattan-Iona quarterfinal round contest.