Sunday, December 6, 2009

Early Look: Iona Has Quickness, Depth

Here's No. 7 in the series taking an early look at conference teams. Up, now ...

IONA (0-1, 4-3)

The Gaels lost a two-pointer, 56-54, in its conference opener against Saint Peter's and had a chance to win it had Jonathan Huffman's last-second shot gone in.

The good news is the 4-2 start in non-league games thus far, including one over America East favorite Boston University. Its losses have been by five to Florida State and by 10 to Baylor, both games in the Old Spice Classic.

Here's even better news: Iona should be good this year, but even better a year from now. There are only two seniors on the roster. Guard Milan Prodanovic is only playing 12 minutes per game, and the 7-foot Huffman is getting 19 minutes per outing.

More good news: Junior forward Alejo Rodriguez, a real inside warrior, appears healthy for the first time in two years. He's playing major minutes and leads Iona in scoring and rebounding (11.0, 7.0).

Sophomore point guard Scott Machado is improved from a year ago and 5-11 sophomore guard Jermel Jenkins (9.0 ppg.) is among the most-improved players in the conference thus far.

The Gaels are playing much quicker than in previous years, and have the depth to keep playing that way. Eleven different players have started at least one game, and 10 played at least nine minutes apiece in the most-recent loss to Saint Peter's.

Insight: Iona will be better than expected. The depth will allow it to continue playing at a quick tempo. The relative youth will get better as the season progresses. It's not a reach to think the Gaels can compete for the upper half of the league standings.

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