Thursday, March 1, 2012

Men's Tournament Preview: Taking a Look At Loyola

Here's another in the series previewing men's teams for the MAAC tournament.

Plays Saturday at 7:30 p.m. against the winner of Friday's Niagara-Canisius contest.

WHAT LOYOLA HAS: Plenty, and it has resulted in the program's best victory total (21) on the Division I level. No matter what, Loyola will be playing in some national post-season tournament. It has four players averaging double figures in scoring and a fifth at 9.0. It legitimately goes eight deep, and has so much depth this year that it pushed J'hared Hall, last season's Sixth Man of the Year award winner in the conference deep onto the bench where he only averaged 5.0 minutes per night. It also has the conference's Coach of the Year in Jimmy Patsos, who did a masterful job turning the program around and restoring pride within it. It has one of the better guards in the league in sophomore Dylon Cormier and one of the best front-court tandems in first-team all-league pick Erik Etherly and 6-10 senior center Shane Walker.

WHAT LOYOLA DOESN'T HAVE: It doesn't have the "signature" star, a big scorer. But, that's probably by designed since there are so many capable scorers to share the load. It's only seeming weak spot is at point guard where a freshman plays, but that first-year floor-general, R.J. Williams, has improved throughout the season. While Williams doesn't score much (3.9 points per game), his assist-to-turnover numbers (73-44) are exceptional for a player at any stage of his career. Loyola also comes in not playing at its best, having lost three of its final four MAAC games, but the one win was a good one at Manhattan in the final game of the regular season.

HOW LOYOLA CAN WIN: Just rewind to to Feb. 10 when it turned in a dominating 87-81 victory over Iona that included a 20-point second-half lead before the Gaels made the score look closer than things actually were. That victory pushed the Greyhounds' record to 12-2, good for sole possession of first place at the time. But then came the aftershocks ... consecutive losses to Fairfield, Marist and Rider before the regular-season ending victory at Manhattan. Loyola certainly has everything it needs with strong guard play, strong inside play and quality depth to not only make a deep run but win this event.

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