"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Monday, August 19, 2019

Loyola-Maryland Preview

Loyola University of Maryland Greyhounds
November 5, fiserv.forum

Coach: Tavaras Hardy (11-21)
3-Year NCAA Rank Average: 271.7
3-Year kenpom Average: 273.3
2019-20 T-Rank Projection:153
Projected Starters: PG Isaiah Hart (5'11" Jr), SG Chuck Champion (6'4" Sr), SF Andrew Kostecka (6'4" Sr), PF Brett Holcombe (6'8" Jr), C KaVaughn Scott (6'8" Sr)

The results in Hardy's first year weren't pretty, but there were some reasons for optimism. After starting 4-12 (0-3) the Greyhounds went 7-9 down the stretch, including a win over a Colgate team that went to the NCAA Tournament. The Greyhounds return everyone of note, which has them projected by T-Rank as the third best team in the Patriot League. This ranking is also notable because, if accurate, it would be the best Greyhound team since they joined the Patriot League in 2014.

These lofty projections start with Andrew Kostecka. The do-everything forward ranked first or second on the team in scoring, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks with a stellar line of 21.3 ppg/4.8 rpg/2.4 apg/2.7 spg/0.9 bpg. He also led the team in minutes, offensive efficiency, and usage. But while he's the star, he has help. Hart, Champion, and Holcombe all averaged double-digit scoring and this starting lineup has been playing together for 3 years. This team also has depth as they return three other players that averaged 13+ mpg and started at least one game last year. Further, keep an eye on Spanish freshmen Golden Dike & Santi Aldama. Dike is a 6'7" forward & was regarded as a 4-star prospect by Evan Daniels. He could be a threat to crash the starting lineup or at least give quality minutes off the bench. Aldama is a 6'11" prospect that can stretch the floor & was named MVP of the U-18 FIBA Europe championships.

In his first year, Hardy promised an exciting, up-tempo style of play and he delivered. The team played at the fastest tempo for a Greyhound team in over a decade. They love to get out in transition, but in the halfcourt are very good at sharing the ball. Last year they largely ran a 4-out/1-in system  thanks to their guard depth, but even with the return of big man Brent Holcombe that won't change much since he averaged 2.4 three point attempts per game. On the other end, they play high-pressure defense that led to the 7th highest steal rate in the nation. That didn't translate to efficiency, however, in large part because of their terrible three-point defense. It makes sense, as gambling for steals can lead to open looks at the arc.

Hardy did a great job keeping this team together. The Greyhounds are experienced and deep. Considering he just took over last year, that's somewhat amazing as there are some legitimate high-major players here and the usual expectation for a new coach is mass transfers. They should be right in the middle of a four-team dogfight for the Patriot League title, though Colgate will be the favorites. If they stay healthy, there is a realistic change for this to be a Quadrant 3 (NET ranking 76-160) game.

Marquette Connection: LUM Head Coach Tavaras Hardy began his college basketball career at Northwestern, where he was a two-time All-Big 10 player. He was recruited there by none other than former Marquette head coach Kevin O'Neill. Not surprisingly, Hardy had similar recollections about O'Neill as the Marquette faithful did. He said this when O'Neill was hired at USC: "“He’s going to tell it like he sees it, and sometimes he’s going to say it in an animated way. Sometimes it’s actually funny, but it’s no secret that he has a different vocabulary than a lot of people.”

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