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NCAA tournament: Loyola capsule

LOYOLA

Record: 24-8, 13-5

Coach: Jimmy Patsos (122-122, eighth season)

Conference: Metro Atlantic (automatic bid)

Last NCAA appearance: 1994 (first round)

Starters, Pos., Yr., Pts.

R.J. Williams, G, Fr., 4.0

Dylon Cormier, G, So., 13.4

Robert Olson, G, Jr., 11.2

Erik Etherly, F, Jr., 13.5

Shane Walker, F, Sr., 9.1

Critical juncture: A weekend trip in January revealed plenty about the Greyhounds. They rallied from 15 points down to defeat Fairfield, the sort of game Loyola wouldn't have won the previous few years. The Greyhounds lost two days later at Iona, a setback that left them thoroughly unsatisfied. They would beat Iona at home a month later and Fairfield again in the MAAC title game.

Reason for optimism: Depth. Loyola can go 10 deep if Patsos is so inclined and usually rotates nine men. The scorer's table sometimes feels like a revolving door, but the Greyhounds aren't overly dependent upon a single player to thrive.

Reason for pessimism: Outside shooting. The Greyhounds were a middle-of-the-pack team in 3-point percentage in the MAAC, and as a team they've made exactly five per game. Robert Olson is an effective gunner, but he's the only Loyola player averaging more than one 3-pointer an outing.

Wild card: Reserves Justin Drummond and Anthony Winbush. Both are D.C.-area products (Drummond attended Riverdale Baptist in Maryland, while Winbush played at Alexandria's T.C. Williams High) who provide a jolt on offense and defense, respectively. When both play well, Loyola's tough to stop.

The draw: The Greyhounds draw Ohio State in Pittsburgh at approximately 9:50 p.m. Loyola earned the No. 15 seed and will be matched up against imposing big man Jared Sullinger and the Buckeyes. Loyola was also a No. 15 seed in its only other NCAA appearance.

Number of note: 39.0

Offensive rebounding percentage for the Greyhounds. Loyola consistently inflicted damage on the offensive glass, and it is a trait likely to carry over reasonably well to the NCAA tournament. If the Greyhounds have any hope of pulling an upset, they'll need to convert their share of second-chance opportunities.

Projection: The Greyhounds arrived a year early, though probably a few years later than Patsos would have liked. Still, Loyola is a remarkable story, earning an NCAA bid less than a decade after a 1-27 season. A win is unlikely, but December's feisty outing at Kentucky (where the Greyhounds were within five early in the second half) is evidence Loyola won't be intimidated on a big stage.

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