Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Men's Preview: Loyola Poised To Win League Title

Here's another in the series previewing conference teams.

Up now ...


2011-12 RECORD: 13-5 in MAAC play, 24-9 overall. Won the conference post-season tournament, lost to Ohio State, 78-59, in first round of NCAA tournament.

KEY RETURNEES: 6-2 junior guard Dylon Cormier (13.4 points, 3.3 rebounds per game last season), 6-7 senior forward Erik Etherly (13.7, 7.5), 6-4 senior guard Robert Olson (11.1, 3.4).

KEY LOSSES: 6-10 forward Shane Walker (9.0, 6.3).

KEY NEWCOMER: 6-1 freshman guard Tyler Hubbard.

NOTES: Loyola finished in second place in last season's conference standings, but got better as the season went on and was at its best at the end, capturing the league's post-season tournament and an automatic berth in the NCAA event. And, the Greyhounds appear to be picking up where where they left off with a 6-1 start in non-conference games thus far ...Veteran teams traditionally have success at this level, and Loyola's top seven scores thus far include four seniors and two juniors. No other conference team has that much experience, and it's a good reason why Loyola has a good chance to add a regular-season title in its last year in the conference. The Greyhounds move to the Patriot League in all sports for next season ... Etherly, a versatile forward, was the coaches' choice for preseason Player of the Year, and hasn't disappointed (15.7 points, 8.0 rebounds so far) ... Cormier, now a junior, has progressed nicely and, now, is among the league's elite shooting guards (17.1, 4.7, 2.3 assists so far ... Head coach Jimmy Patsos, now in his ninth season, took over a moribund program and turned it around in dramatic fashion. The year before his arrival the Greyhounds won just a single game and, now, have moved into MAAC elite territory ... It's not only talent that has made the difference, but Patsos' ability to get the Greyhounds to play team-oriented ball. Loyola, thus far, is committing just 10.7 turnovers per game, a very acceptable rate ... It's a team that shares the wealth offensively. Although Cormier and Etherly are both very good scorers, neither one will likely finish near the top of the conference's individual scoring list ... and, Olson is a good third option (12.4 ppg. thus far) and is one of the conference's hardest-working players at both ends of the court ... Senior forward Anthony Winbush (7.0, 6.3 so far) has stepped up nicely, as has senior forward Julius Brooks (4.7, 3.3, after averaging just 4.7 minutes per game last year ... Junior big man Jordan Latham (6-8, 250 pounds), helps anchor the middle and leads the MAAC in blocks (1.7) so far .... and 6-1 redshirt freshman Tyler Hubbard has contributed (7.3 ppg.) ... it means the team goes at least seven deep, and it adds an eighth when sophomore 5-8 point guard R.J. Williams, the starter at the position last year, returns to action in mid-January ... Williams is suspended, until then, for an unspecified violation of team rules and has yet to play this season. He was the team's leader in assists a year ago.

LOYOLA'S STRENGTHS: A nice combination of talent and experience. The only loss from a year ago was 6-10 forward Shane Walker, whose intangibles were just as important as his stats. But, there's still more than enough height still on the roster. There might be a couple of  teams in the MAAC with a little more man-for-man talent, but there isn't a conference team that plays better together right now. The Greyhounds' versatility is a positive, too. There are three significant point producers. Opponents can't just shut down a single player.

LOYOLA'S WEAKNESSES: Not many, although the loss of Walker is a significant one. Latham gives the team a different look ... a bruiser in the middle. Plus, the team is playing well so far without its expected point guard, Williams, and will have to ensure his return goes smoothly.

REASONABLE EXPECTATION: Loyola was your Hoopscribe's early preseason pick to win the regular-season title, and league coaches agreed in their preseason poll. The Greyhounds have done nothing in the non-conference season to lower those expectations. Loyola remains the favorite to capture a regular-season league title.

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