Loyola (MD) was supposed to be one of those sneaky good non-conference games on FSU’s schedule. After struggling in recent seasons, head coach GG Smith had them prepared to make some noise in the Patriot League.
Sophomore starter Chuck Champion missed the first five games, and even without him they nearly upset No. 19 Northwestern.
But in subsequent games they struggled, and then the wheels came off a few games later, at a point when they held a 17-point lead in the 2nd half on the road vs UMass-Lowell. That’s when 1st Team All Conference guard Andre Walker went down, only to be followed less than two minutes later by their other potential star - sophomore Andrew Kostecka.
Champion is back, but Walker and Kostecka haven’t played since, while Loyola (MD) has limped to a 1-6 record.
In his two games, 6-3 Chuck Champion has averaged 18.5 ppg and 6.0 rebounds. Cam Gregory, a slender 6-8 senior, has had a great season in the post with 16.9 points and 9.3 rebounds per contest.
The only other double-digit scorers are Walker (14.2 ppg) and Kostecka (13.2 ppg). When I scouted them I was impressed with 6-6 junior James Fives, who has made 38% of his 3s for the year.
All told, their offense has really struggled this season (302nd nationally), while their defense is solid for a Patriot League team.
In short, FSU (7-0) should blow them out.
But there are a lot of distractions. The ‘Noles just beat up on No. 5 Florida on Monday, so it may be tough to get up for this one on short notice. Also, the new head coach of the football program - Willie Taggart - will be the sideshow at the game. And, of course, $1 hot dogs always has the place buzzing.
There is no Vegas line on the game (presumably due to the injury status of Loyola’s stars), though Pomeroy has FSU by 24.
The game tips at 7 PM from the Tuck, where FSU is on a 24-game home winning streak. It will be streamed live on ESPN3.