MAAC Tournament Preview: Loyola opens with Canisius Friday night in Albany

March 05, 2009 |

In 1994 Skip Prosser took his Loyola Greyhounds men’s hoops team to Knickerbocker Arena in Albany, New York for the post-season Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament.

Nobody expected much from this group; they hadn’t won consecutive games since early January, they were led by this young first year head coach and, after all, the school had never even won a MAAC Tournament game in their four seasons since beginning play in the league.

What went on in Albany had never happened in school history before and hasn’t occurred ever since.  The Greyhounds somehow overcame the odds and made their miracle march to madness.  Wins over Saint Peter’s, Canisius, and Manhattan gave Loyola their one and only NCAA Tournament appearance in school history, and it’s first conference tournament championship since the school won the 1973 Mason-Dixon Conference Championship while still competing on the Division II level.

Skip Prosser, the former Loyola, Xavier, and Wake Forest head coach who past over a year and a half ago, and his team were able to overcome season-long inconsistencies and gave the Evergreen Campus their one and only moment of March glory.  The 2009 MAAC Tournament will be the 15th anniversary of the run.

This weekend Jimmy Patsos will make his fifth effort in attempting to replicate Prosser’s success in capturing the MAAC Title.

It will be the second consecutive year the tournament will be held at the Time Union Center, formerly known as the previously mentioned Knickerbocker Arena, in Albany, New York.  Coach Patsos will bring a Greyhound team that tied with Iona for 7th place in the regular season standings with a 7-11 conference record. Having lost the tie-breaker with the Gaels, Loyola will be the 8th seed in to ’09 Tournament and will get started tonight at 7:30pm against the 9th seeded Canisus Golden Griffins.

The Griffs and Greyhounds split their regular season match-ups, each winning on the other’s home floor.  Loyola notched an 83-62 win in early January in Buffalo, and Canisius returned the favor at Reitz Arena with a 69-67 win two weeks ago.

Loyola won its last game of the regular season and in the process ended a seven game losing streak at Iona last Sunday.  It’s been a turbulent season for the young team; they started 1-5 in MAAC play, then won four straight to go 6-5, before losing the seven and beating Iona, to end 7-11.  Including the 2-point loss to Canisius the ‘Hounds have endured heartbreaking late game losses all season long, having lost six games by 3 points or less.

Canisius comes into the game as hot as a team with a 4-14 league record can be going into post-season play.  After picking up their win in Baltimore they beat Bowling Green in their BracketBuster game, then scored a victory over Marist and had a season high three game win streak going, before regular season conference champ, Siena, escaped the Golden Griffins 78-74 in each clubs’ last game.

Loyola, when its rotation is healthy and playing well, has more talent than Canisius can match-up with.  The problem is that the ‘Hounds haven’t come to play in some games this year.  However, one would figure in the conference tournament the whole team would be geared up for an inspired performance, so I think you can expect nothing less from from either side.  Canisius’ senior point guard Frank Turner has 1st Team All-MAAC ability but has never had the opportunity to really showcase his abilities because of the lack of talent surrounding him.  If Loyola can keep his penetration and kick game to a minimum and cut him off from attacking the basket they will have success, as Canisius is mostly very limited after that.  Offensively, Loyola doesn’t possess the strongest post-game so they’ll need deep jump shots to go down from the back-court quartet of Marquis Sullivan, Brett Harvey, Brian Rudolph, and Jamal Barney if they will be able to pickup another win.

The winner of the Loyola-Canisius contest will have to take on the Siena Saints in the Quarterfinals Saturday evening at 5:00pm… certainly an unenviable task, considering Siena is the #1 seed, playing in their home arena with two 1st Team All-MAAC players, two 2nd Team All-MAAC players, and being led by the MAAC Coach of the Year Fran McCaffery.

A last positive note for Loyola, Jamal Barney, the team’s and MAAC’s leading scorer, will return to the lineup after being scratched for the Iona game.  He was recognized as a 2nd Team All-MAAC performer earlier this week after averaging better than 18 point per game in conference play.  Freshman forward Anthony Winbush was also named to the league’s All-Rookie Team after showing a very solid floor game in his first year in Green and Gray.