BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Patriot League unveiled its 2014-2015 preseason men's basketball poll Thursday morning at the conference's annual media day at ArtsQuest Center at Steel Stacks. was picked to finish ninth in the survey of League head coaches and sports information directors.
The Greyhounds, who finished the 2013-2014 season with an 11-19 overall record and tied for seventh in the Patriot League regular-season standings, open the season Friday, Nov. 14, in Lubbock, Texas. There, Loyola and second-year Head Coach G.G. Smith will face his mentor and father, Tubby Smith, and his Texas Tech Red Raiders.
"We have a young team this year, but we are excited with what we have seen in practices," Smith said. "We are already seeing the benefit of the extra practices and competitions we were able to have from our tour of Montreal in August. The mix of young players, along with a core of returners who have been developing as leaders, is exciting."
Last year's Patriot League Tournament champion American University was named the conference's front-runner in the poll with 13 of the 20 first-place votes. The U.S. Military Academy garnered five first-place votes, and College of the Holy Cross picked up the remaining two.
Lafayette College followed the Crusaders in fourth place, and Bucknell University was fifth. Boston University, which won the 2013-2014 regular-season title, is slotted sixth, with Lehigh University, Colgate University, Loyola and the U.S. Naval Academy rounding out the poll.
Loyola returns eight players from last year's squad and mixes in five freshman and a junior transfer who is now eligible after sitting out last season under NCAA year-in-residency rules. All of the Greyhounds participated in practices and games on their five-game, seven-day trip to Montreal and Quebec City in late August.
A quarter of juniors, guards Tyler Hubbard and Eric Laster and post players Jarred Jones and Franz Rassman, join the team's lone senior, guard Denzel Brito, to form a veteran group that will lead Loyola into the season.
Jones is the top returning scorer and rebounder after serving as one of the Patriot League's top sixth men last year. In 30 contests, Jones averaged 8.6 points and 4.5 rebounds, highlighted by his career-highs of 28 points and 10 rebounds in the Patriot League Championships First Round against Lafayette.
Laster averaged 8.3 points last year and was the team's top scorer in its five wins in Canada with 15.0 points per game. He also shot 39.4 percent from 3-point range to lead Loyola in 2013-2014. Hubbard, meanwhile, topped the team with 44 3-pointers made, and his range was on display north of the border where he made 45.2 percent of shots from behind the arc.
Rassman closed the 2013-2014 regular-season with consecutive games of 15 points and earned Academic All-Patriot League and Academic All-District First Team honors following the campaign. Brito started 10 games last year and returns as the Greyhounds' leader in assists, a category that he contributed 3.4 per game in Canada.
Three sophomores - guard Sean Tuohy Jr. and posts Josh Forney and Nick Gorski - return to add depth for the Greyhounds, and junior guard Stefano Mancini will see his first intercollegiate playing time for Loyola after transferring to the University before last season.
After opening the year at Texas Tech, the Greyhounds make their Reitz Arena debut Sunday, Nov. 16, to host Cornell University at 4 o'clock.