Tech uses multiple defenses. The guess is that trying to play Loyola man-to-man without Wright will be a no-go. The Ramblers’ center is Cameron Krutwig, who made third-team All-American. The good news: Tech tends to be better when it plays zone, their version being essentially a morphing matchup. Loyola won’t score 100 points Friday; according to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, it was 49th in offensive efficiency, the lowest such number of any team in KenPom’s overall top 20.
The problem will come when Tech has the ball. Loyola was No. 1 in defensive efficiency, and Tech is missing a man who averages 17.4 points. It’s possible to imagine the Jackets winning if Usher, who has averaged 15.4 over the past five games, has another big day. It’s not possible to imagine them winning if Michael Devoe isn’t hitting.
Loyola plays at a sedate pace. Tech will try to speed things up. (A big man is less essential in an open-court game.) Jose Alvarado’s ball pressure will be mandatory. The Jackets might well deploy Usher as a nominal center and play three guards, Bubba Parham being the third, as opposed to stationing Howard down low.
In sum, there are ways to win this game without Wright. Granted, there’d be more ways with him, but you play with what you have. We might never know, even with the Jackets’ attention to protocols and their weeklong Greensboro bubble, how Wright came to test positive. We’re still in a pandemic. How does anybody test positive? (We should have known something was up when their charter flight was delayed eight hours Sunday.) He’s in isolation in Indianapolis and is said to be asymptomatic. He might be able to return if the Jackets reach the Sweet 16.
They were already a slight underdog against Loyola, but this is an 8-versus-9 game, which means there’s not really a favorite. We shouldn’t dismiss their chances out of hand. As for what might happen in Round 2 against Illinois minus Wright … well, let me get back to you on that.
In the meantime, the Jackets can buoy their spirits by recalling Tech’s perseverance back in the day. If they require personal testimony, Elder shouldn’t be hard to find. He’s their associate director of player personnel.