Conference Realignment: Loyola-MD Greyhounds to Join Patriot League in 2013

Jesse KramerCorrespondent IAugust 29, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 15:  Aaron Craft #4 of the Ohio State Buckeyes passes the ball as he falls against Erik Etherly #24 of the Loyola Greyhounds during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Consol Energy Center on March 15, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

One year after winning the MAAC tournament and going to the NCAA tournament, Loyola-MD is choosing to move to the Patriot League, according to the Patriot League's official website.

The Greyhounds had their first 20-win season as a Division I school last year, going 24-9, 13-5 in the MAAC. They finished No. 2 in the MAAC and then defeated Niagara, Siena and Fairfield on their way to a championship before losing as a No. 15 seed to Ohio State in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Jimmy Patsos, Loyola's head coach, built this program up from nothing. When he arrived, the Greyhounds had been to one NCAA tournament in their history and were the worst team in the MAAC.

They won only six games in his first season, but since then Patsos has had four winning seasons.

Loyola is a clear favorite in the MAAC this season, along with Manhattan and Iona. The Greyhounds return their top three scorers and four starters, including All-MAAC First Team selection Erik Etherly, who averaged 13.7 points and 7.5 rebounds.

Unlike Old Dominion and Georgia State in the CAA, which were ruled ineligible for their conference's tournament because of their moves to the Sun Belt next season, the Greyhounds will be eligible for the MAAC tournament and the MAAC's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, according to a tweet by Jon Rothstein.

The Patriot League has been an eight-team league since the 2001-02 season, and the members had not changed since American joined that year.

Now, the conference adds a pair of teams for next in Loyola and Boston University, which announced its move back in June, bumping the number of competitors up to 10.

The MAAC has traditionally been a better conference than the Patriot League. Last year, even with the MAAC having a very mediocre year and the Patriot League having a pair of top mid-majors in Lehigh and Bucknell, the MAAC finished four spots ahead of the Patriot League in conference RPI. The last time the Patriot League had the better RPI was in the 2006-07 season.

Loyola's move leaves the MAAC in an unexpected situation.

There has already been speculation that Siena and Fairfield are thinking of moving to a new conference, most likely either the CAA or the Atlantic 10. But so far there is no official news on whether such a move is in either team's near future.

The MAAC has been a 10-team conference since the 1997-98 season, and that number is cut to nine starting next season.

The MAAC should start looking quickly for a team that could replace Loyola. Possible teams to look at are Fordham, which was an inaugural member of the conference and then moved to the Atlantic 10, and Wagner, Quinnipiac and LIU-Brooklyn, all from the NEC.