The Greyhounds may not be a team you have heard much about, but that doesn’t mean they are some sort of preseason cupcake that was scheduled to build up Washington’s confidence. In fact, Loyola managed to accomplish something that the Huskies could not last season: they went to the NCAA tournament. They put together a 24-6 record, by far the best in the school’s history, before falling to Ohio State 78-59 in their first tournament game. So, while Washington is favored by 8.5 points, this game won’t necessarily be easy.
Loyola returns two solid, veteran starters in junior guard Dylon Cormier, who averaged 13 points last year, and Erik Etherly, the senior forward that averaged 13.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. Etherly is 6’7″ and 225 pounds, so expect him to spend most of his time at the four. Judging from statistics, it seems Etherly is the Greyhounds’ most valuable player, and judging by his five years experience as a college athlete, I would expect that he is a team leader as well.
For Washington, this game is a chance to play together and start to discover what sort of roles players will play this year. Will Wilcox and Suggs be able to coexist as scorers with very similar skill sets? Will N’Diaye and Gaddy, two veteran players, be able to suddenly take large steps forward to fill the void of departed players? Will Simmons be able to flourish as the starting four?
These are the times to find answers for those questions. Until the answers are found, expect a lot of sloppiness. As such, I think this game will be surprising close. A few things to keep in mind: the tallest guy on Loyola’s roster is 6’9″ and their heaviest player is 255 pounds. So, there is really nobody that matches up well with the 7’0″ 260 pound Aziz N’Diaye. Also, the Greyhounds never beat a major conference opponent last year, and they certainly never beat a major conference opponent on the road. So, there isn’t a whole lot of reason to believe they can show up at Hec Ed, one of the toughest venues for road teams in the country, and upset Washington.
With that in mind, I think Washington will win. Though, I also figure it will be pretty close. Expect something similar to the Western game. Times when the game is tied, or Loyola even takes the lead, but in the end, Gaddy will help to steady the ship, and the deep scoring of Wilcox and Suggs will pull the Huskies through down the stretch.
Washington 78, Loyola (MD) 69