Boston University has accomplished a lot over the past three seasons: a trip to the NCAA Tournament, a CBI Semifinals run, consecutive 21-14 seasons and to a much smaller degree staying perfect in BracketBuster games. While the Terriers (14-14, 10-4 America East), still have hopes of another America East Tournament run and possibly a playoff appearance, they'll first look to move to 5-0 in the annual Sears BracketBuster weekend when they travel to Maryland to square off against Loyola (19-7, 12-4) Sunday at 1 p.m. EDT at Reitz Arena. (TV: None/Radio: 1510 AM WWZN)
Loyola is the third Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference team the Terriers have faced in BracketBuster games, with prior wins against St. Peter's and last year against Canisius. The Terriers and Greyhounds have faced off once before, when the Terriers earned a 71-51 victory over Loyola in the first round of the South Florida Holiday Tournament in December of 1996.
First year head coach Joe Jones is still trying to make some final adjustments to his team before the America East Tournament, after the Terriers dropped a 54-54 decision Wednesday to New Hampshire at home. The loss came a week after Boston University had earned their third four-game winning streak of the season in a win over Maine.
Senior center Patrick Hazel suffered a knee injury in the Maine game and was limited to just seven minutes against New Hampshire, after practicing sparingly over the past week. The biggest benefactor of Hazel's injury has been sophomore forward Dom Morris. The Newark, Delaware native has posted new season highs in points (13 and 17 points) in each game and added 12 rebounds against New Hampshire, as he has slowly gained confidence in Jones' new system. With Morris serving as the team's third option, the Terriers are slowly creating a more imposing offensive threat, with senior guard Darryl Partin (19.9 ppg) and sophomore point guard D.J. Irving (11.6 ppg, 5.4 apg) leading the way.
The Greyhounds are in the midst of a losing streak of their own, after they knotched their best victory of the season last Friday against Iona College to cap off the team's seven-game winning streak. With the win Loyola gained control of first place in the MAAC, but quickly fell back to second with a loss at home against third-place Fairfield College and an 18-point loss on the road at 10-16 Marist College. On the season, Loyola is 10-2 at the Reitz Arena and they hold a 2-0 record against the America East, with road wins over UMBC and New Hampshire.
Junior forward Erik Etherly is one of five Greyhounds who average nine points or more. Etherly leads the team in rebounding (7.6 rbg) and adds 13.3ppg, while leading the team in blocks (34) and steals (29). Behind Etherly, Loyola is second in the MAAC in rebounding margin (+3.7 rebounds per game) and leads the conference in offensive rebounding with 13.9 per game. Sophomore guard Dylon Cormier leads the team with 13.8 ppg and fellow junior guard Robert Olson adds 11.6 ppg while serving as the team's primary 3-point shooter (44.3%).
Prediction: Despite their past two losses, Loyola has been a good team all season long and extremely difficult to beat at home. The Greyhounds strength has been their rebounding and defense, which is allowing just 64.1 points per game. With Hazel banged up and his status uncertain, the Terriers are going to need to get another strong performance from Morris and have all the cylinders firing on offense.
Wednesday Boston University hit just 9.1 percent (2-of-22) of their 3-point shots, so they might be hesitant to shoot from distance, but that might be where they can take advantage of a Loyola team that allows opponents to shoot 36.7 percent from distance. In the end I don't see Boston University winning this one-unless Irving is able to get to the basket and Hazel is able to play at least 25 minutes of basketball while being a noticeable presence on the floor.
Loyola 73, Boston University 61