Monday, December 3, 2012

Women's Preview: Sheahin-Led Loyola Looks Solid

Here's another in the series previewing conference teams.

Up now ...


2011-12 RECORD: 9-9 in MAAC play, 13-17 overall. Lost in the MAAC Tournament's quarterfinal round to Niagara, 77-63.

KEY RETURNEES: 5-10 senior guard Katie Sheahin (15.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 3.4 steals per game last season), 5-8 sophomore guard Kara Marshall (11.0, 2.3), 6-1 senior forward Alyssa Sutherland (6.0, 5.0), 6-0 junior guard Nicole Krusen (3.9, 1.4), 6-1 junior forward Nneka Offodile (5.8, 4.9).

KEY LOSS: Forward Miriam McKenzie (14.4, 8.4).

KEY ADDITION: 5-11 freshman guard Diana Logan.

NOTES: Off to a 3-4 start with three of the losses to strong local opponents Howard, Navy and Maryland and the fourth to always solid Hartford ... Sheahin was the coaches' choice for preseason Player of the Year, and has done nothing, so far, to indicate she isn't a strong contender for that award in the post-season, too, averaging 15.0, 5.4, 3.7 assists and 2.5 steals per game so far ... Still, when a guard (Sheahin) is the team's leading rebounder, it signifies trouble in the paint, and Loyola has it, having been outrebounded by 5.4 per game through its first seven contests ... Sutherland (7.6, 5.0 so far) is more of a finesse forward, while Offodile (4.9, 5.1) is still developing. But, neither one is going to come close to the rebounding average of graduated Miriam McKenzie (8.4 last season), and that's the team's biggest weakness to date ... Much of the team's strength, and its offense, is on the perimeter and teams can concentrate on guarding the shooters without a lot of fear of getting overwhelmed in the paint ... The team's fourth-leading scorer, Krusen has taken only seven shots from inside the three-point arc so far ... The Greyhounds were a 21-win team in 2010-11, but have slipped some since then ... Loyola's most-recent game, though, was a nice 55-53 victory over reigning Patriot League champion American, and the Greyhounds move to that league for next season ... Sheahin had 22 points in that contest, and Offodile had nine rebounds, the type production Loyola could use on a regular basis ... Sheahin has been the MAAC's Defensive Player of the Year for the past two seasons, and is one of the most-versatile performers ever to play in the conference.

LOYOLA'S STRENGTHS: Sheahin's all-around play at both ends makes Loyola competitive on any night. Marshall, Krusen and even Sutherland are capable long-range shooters. Offodile is an emerging post player, and Loyola will be well served if she can give it a consistently strong inside performance.

LOYOLA'S WEAKNESSES: Right now, other than Offodile's 9-rebound effort vs. American, a lack of consistent inside play. It needs to cut its 5.4 rebound-per-game deficiency considerably and rely less on its perimeter game. There's also a bit of a depth concern early on. Only seven players average at least 10 minutes per game.

REASONABLE EXPECTATION: Loyola was picked for third in the coaches' preseason poll, but had at least as good personnel a year ago and finished in a three-way tie for fourth. Still, there isn't a clear-cut second-best team (although Fairfield seems to be emerging in non-league play), and Loyola could certainly contend to battle for second (behind Marist). The likelihood, though, is somewhere between third and sixth.

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