Buckeye Basketball is back on the map when tournament action gets underway in the East region today. The best two weeks in sports are upon us, as I wrap up my daily email responses, and jump out of my day job and onto the couch. I know you’re doing the same thing, and if not… You can always quit your day job.
Seriously, it’s an option I’d consider.
Okay, enough promoting of living the poor life. You don’t have to worry about round one, because our Buckeyes won’t take the court until somewhere around 10 eastern time (yes, even Mali will get to watch live!). The last round of games tonight features UNLV/Colorado, Kansas/Detroit, Iowa St/UCONN, MSU/Long Island, and Ohio State/Loyola.
It look’s like we’ve got one heck of a ballgame on our hands. Here is a preview of tonight’s match-up in Pittsburgh between the Buckeyes and Greyhounds!
The 2 vs. 15 History
Only four 15 seeds in tournament history have won in the opening round. Of course, this year’s second to worse seeds might be the best in the history of the tournament (you still with me?). Detroit, who will take on Kansas, is arguably good enough to be just outside a top ten seed. Lehigh features one of the best players in the tournament. Norfolk State is on a seven game winning streak heading into today’s play. The Greyhounds of Loyola have beaten the likes of Iona and have some big wins over Fairfield and Siena in the always tough MAAC.
The last time a 15 beat a 2 was in 2001 when Hampton upset Iowa State 58-57. On average, the two seed shoots 48% from the field, while the 15 seed shoots 38%. The average score is 79-63.
See what I’m getting at?
Of course, it’s going to be a battle. Loyola is well coached, has extremely talented players, and it’s March — everybody brings it . And anything can happen.
The one thing we know, besides the fact that there are 1500 Loyola campuses across the country, is that this Greyhound team can play basketball. As a unit, they found that out in December after suffering a second half meltdown against play in 14th seeded Iona. After giving up 43 points total in the second, and losing by 11, something clicked. Six games later, the Greyhounds would avenge that loss at home for their seventh straight victory.
A turnaround that is symbolic of where the program stands under head coach Jimmy Patsos.
Following up a 1-27 record and the worst RPI in college basketball in 2003, Patsos took over a program in shambles and has since put together 100+ wins. After the first 20 win season in school history, Loyola is looking to become the 5th team to upset a number 2 seed in the tournament. Do they have the weapons to do it? It’s possible. That being said, Patsos is understands what he and his program are up against.
The former Maryland assistant under Gary Williams told the Baltimore Sun, “Ohio State has great players, they have better players than we do and Thad Matta is a better coach than me. Are we expected to win that game? No. Do we have a chance to win that game? Very little.”
If Loyola wants to capitalize on it’s “very little” chance of winning, it starts with 6’7″ power forward Erik Etherly. The junior leads the Greyhounds in their more tradition inside than out approach. Not only can he muscle and move inside, his range allows him to hit jumpers from 15′.A transfer from Northeastern, the first team All-MAAC forward had an impressive 21 double doubles in the regular season.
He isn’t the only weapon though.
The Greyhounds may not have a go to guard, but they have four players that average double figures. That might not seem like a threat but in the Maryland flex, which is based solely on team basketball, they can cause plenty of frustration on the defensive side of the floor. Think back to the Maryland runs of the late 90′s. There was never a player that had to take over for the Terrapins to win. In any motion flex set, anybody can be a factor on the floor.
And while the Greyhounds don’t have a Chris Wilcox or Steve Blake, what they bring to the table are capable scorers.
Dylon Cormier fits that bill. The 2 guard might not have the best shooting hand, or take over ballgames like a Seth Curry — but he fits this offense perfectly. Not only does he get to the line with authority, but he distributes the basketball off the dribble. He has shot an impressive 46% from the field.
Though Loyola isn’t a great three point shooting team (33% on the season), Robert Olson is a type of guard that can go off and change a game in a hurry. Not only did he shoot 44% from three point land, but he drained three or more in a game 12 times this season. What makes him so dangerous is his ability in motion to either spot up off the pass in the corner, or distribute to the open man.
That man normally would be Shane Walker. The 6’10″ senior will have a rough time though finding space against Jared Sullinger. Look for the big man to settle with the jumper, which might not be a bad thing. The turnover prone (2.3 per game) big man can hit anything up to 15′ as well.
There is no doubt though if Loyola wants to have a chance in this one, they can’t depend on the perimeter. It just isn’t a part of their gameplan to success. As anyone knows, it takes a couple of treys sometimes in the NCAA tournament to get you over the hump. Especially in any hopes of upsetting a better team.
It also takes stingy defense.
Patsos’ squad will play with full court pressure and man-to-man principles (Rafferty ftw this March). Against a team like Ohio State, you take a big chance with full court defense. Because when Aaron Craft burns by his defender, and we all know he will, there is going to be a select amount of open passing lanes and scoring opportunities for his teammates. That being said, this team held a very good Fairfield team to just 28% shooting from the floor and 18% from three in the MAAC championship game. It was this same defense that kept the Stags scoreless for the first 8 minutes of the second half to take over the ballgame.