When Maryland earned the No. 1 ranking earlier this month after knocking off then-No. 1 and reigning national champion Duke, Terps coach John Tillman deflected the accolade by saying that he preferred to be the best team in May and by admitting that he voted for Virginia to receive the top ranking.
Coach Charley Toomey, whose Loyola program was anointed as the No. 1 team in many polls this week, has taken a slightly different approach.
“We’re not going to shy away from it,” he said on Thursday afternoon. “It doesn’t mean anything right now. We all know that. It’s all about the latter part of the year, but any team that is vying for a conference championship and wants to get to late May obviously is hoping to be No. 1. Obviously, it’s still pretty early in the season, so it’s pretty insignificant. But we’re not going to run from it.”
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The Greyhounds (8-1 overall and 4-0 in the Patriot League) have enjoyed the view from the top before. They earned the No. 1 spot just before the start of the 2012 NCAA tournament en route to capturing the national title that year and then began the 2013 campaign as the top team before losing it after a loss to Maryland in February.
Toomey said he is curious to see how the current squad will deal with the national praise – and the scrutiny that accompanies it.
“Quite honestly, the question to the team on Monday was, are we similar to the 2012 team or are we similar to the 2013 team in terms of how we’re going to handle this?” he said. “The 2012 team had to work very hard from where they started to earn the ranking. Quite honestly last year, it was given to us, and we didn’t hold onto it very long. This year, I’m interested to see how this team responds and how they go about their business on a day-to-day basis.”
Toomey said he has an inkling of how the players will handle the top ranking.
“I take my cues from practice, and I feel like this team works very hard in practice,” he said. “I like our senior leadership, the whole one-game-at-a-time mentality that this team has. I believe that we will continue to work hard and hopefully by working hard, we’ll continue to have some success on Saturdays.”