Monday, December 26, 2011

Loyola Men's Preview: Top Title Contender

Here's another in the series preview MAAC teams.

Up now ...


2011-12 RECORD TO DATE: 2-0 in MAAC play, 8-3 overall.

2010-11 RECORD: 10-8 in the MAAC, 15-15 overall.


KEY RETURNEES (This season's statistics): 6-2 sophomore guard Dylon Cormier (16.5 points, 4.7 rebounds), 6-7 junior forward Erik Etherly (12.5, 7.5), 6-4 sophomore guard Justin Drummond (11.5, 6.5), 6-10 senior forward Shane Walker (11.1, 6.5), 6-4 junior guard Robert Olson (9.0, 2.8).

KEY LOSSES: Brian Rudolph (6.5, 4.4).

NOTES: Clearly one of the conferences top three teams, particularly after an 8-1 start and an eight-game winning streak after a season-opening loss at Wake Forest that were both the program's best since moving to the Division I level in 1981 ... The other two losses were also to quality opponents, St. Bonaventure and Kentucky. And, against Kentucky, Loyola was within four points early in the second half before a very respectable 87-63 final score ... More depth than any other MAAC team, the Greyhounds legitimately go eight deep, and that's without senior guard J'hared Hall, the conference's Sixth Man of the Year award winner last season. Hall has been battling early season injuries, but has returned to action recently ... Head coach Jimmy Patsos, who recently went over the 100-win plateau at the school, has brought the program from just an abysmal state (1-29 the year before he came aboard) to respectability. Late last season, he talked about making the next step, going beyond respectability to legitimately contending for league honors, and it looks like that could happen this season ... Just about everything appears to be in place. Sophomore guard Dylon Cormier is the requisite standout, becoming one of the league's elite guards. And Cormier is getting plenty of backcourt help from another sophomore, Justin Drummond, who had 26 points in the loss to St. Bonaventure...There is more than enough height in the 6-10 Walker and tough 6-7 Etherly inside, backed up by 6-8 workhorse Jordan Latham, a sophomore transfer who previously played at Xavier and has been getting more time of late. Balance? Four players average at least 11.1 points per game, and a fifth averages 9.0. Coaching? Your Hoopscribe has long been a Patsos admirer, recognizing that the coach consistently gets the most out of his players and teams ...The only minor question is replacing graduated point guard Brian Rudolph and that job, for the most part, has fallen to freshman R.J. Williams (3.9 points, 2.3 rebounds), who started for much of the year to date but has seen his playing time diminish of late. But, if Williams can be a significant contributor the Greyhounds have just about everything covered.

HOW LOYOLA CAN SUCCEED: Getting a little better play from Williams would be a boost, but even with a freshman running things and with just one senior in the top eight players (Walker), Loyola is still a team that values the ball committing a very reasonable 14.5 turnovers per contest. The Greyhounds will succeed just by continuing to do the things they've done so far: Remain balanced, remain under control and remain healthy. With its depth, it would appear as capable as any conference team of holding up while playing on consecutive nights, which bodes well for the post-season tournament.

PREDICTION: Early returns indicate that Iona is the best team in the league, but Loyola ranks right up there with Fairfield as the most-legitimate contenders. The guess here is that Loyola will battle for second or third place this season.

No comments: