There’s nothing like coming home for Thanksgiving. The Rhode Island Rams will return to the Ryan Center on Friday to try to snag their first win of the season. Let’s see, in their first game in Kingston this year, Rhody faced a team that won their conference tournament a year ago and played in the NCAA Tournament as a 15 seed. Whereas their second game will be against a team that won their conference tournament a year ago and played in the NCAA Tournament as a… 15… …hmmm. So the schedule gets a little easier, but not that much easier. Here’s a look at defending MAAC champions:
Loyola University Maryland
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Conference: Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC)
2011-12 Record: 24-9 (13-5) [#15 seed in NCAA Tournament, lost in first round]
The Greyhounds are 4-1 on the young season, and since this game is once again part of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament, Rhody and Loyola already have an opponent in common: Nofolk State. The Greyhounds had much more luck with the Spartans than URI did, topping them easily, 65-49. Loyola’s other wins have come against Binghamton, Maryland-Baltimore County, and most recently versus Albany. Their only loss came in their only road game, when they were beaten soundly by Washington, 85-63.
Projected Starting Lineups
G: Dylon Cormier, Jr, #3, 6’2″, 172
G: Robert Olson, Sr, #25, 6’4″, 189
G: Jarred Jones, Fr, #21, 6’5″, 185
F: Erik Etherly, Sr, #24, 6’7″, 225
F: Julius Brooks, Sr, #30, 6’9″, 224
G: Mike Powell, So, #1, 5’11″, 175
G: Xavier Munford, Jr, #5, 6’2″, 180
G: Andre Malone, Sr, #12, 6’6″, 210
F: Nikola Malesevic, Sr, #23, 6’7″, 200
F: Ryan Brooks, Sr, #33, 6’8″, 220
Loyola returns three starters from their NCAA Tournament squad from a year ago. The most noticeable addition from last season has been freshman Jarred Jones. He has been in the starting five since the start of this season and played extremely well in the Greyhounds’ first three games before cooling off a bit as of late. For the season, he is averaging 20 minutes per game, 4.4 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and 1.4 blocks. If he starts to heat up early on, the Rhody defense will have to adjust.
As for returning players, Loyola packs a 1-2 inside-outside punch with Erik Etherly and Dylon Cormier. Cormier is a lethal scoring guard, averaging 18.4 PPG so far this season to go along with 4.4 rebounds. Rhody has done a nice job limiting guard play so far this year, containing the likes of Norfolk State’s Pendarvis Williams and Ohio State’s Aaron Craft. They’ll have to do the same on Friday. Meanwhile, Etherly is a beast down low, which has certainly been an issue for the Rams this year. He’s averaging 16.6 points per game and is coming off a 21 point effort against Albany. URI has obviously struggled against shutting down big men so far this season, and Etherly is a worthy challenge in terms of reversing that trend.
The good news is the Rams have been playing better game after game, and they should hopefully have Nikola Malesevic back in the lineup. Plus, being at home doesn’t hurt, especially the day following a holiday. Will that be enough to topple a strong Loyola team? Leave your thoughts in the comments.