It's not too often that a conference team is still playing basketball at the end of March, but the Iona men stretched their season out to the final possible day before a disappointing ending, a 76-69 setback against Santa Clara in the championship game of the CIT post-season event.
It was the second late-season disapppointment for the Gaels, who were also upset by Saint Peter's in the championship game of the MAAC's post-season tournament earlier in the month.
"We felt like we let the school and our fans down when we didn't win the MAAC," Iona's junior point guard Scott Machado told the New York Daily News before Wednesday night's CIT Championship game against Santa Clara. "The CIT gave us an opportunity to make up for that and for our seniors to hang a championship banner before they left."
Instead, Santa Clara controlled the boards, holding a 50-33 rebounding edge, to win the game played at Iona's Hynes Center.
The Gaels might be disappointed now, but the benefits will likely pay off a year from now. Not many teams nationally got to play four extra games after their respective regular-season and/or conference's post-season tournament was over, but Iona got, basically, an extra month of basketball games and practices during its CIT run.
The "disappointment" of this year ... if a 25-12 final record can be even remotely viewed as a disappointment ... should fuel some renewed goals a year from now. And, the Gaels return their top five scorers from this season and nine of the 11 players who scored points this season.
Among those are 6-7 junior forward Mike Glover and 6-1 junior point guard Scott Machado, the league's top one-two punch this past season. Sean Armond (14 points in the CIT championship game) is only a sophomore and looks to be ready to move to the starting lineup.
Swingman Kyle Smyth, out with a shoulder injury for the entire CIT event, will be back next year, too, along with 5-11 junior guard Jermel Jenkins. Smyth, Armand and Jenkins are all long-range shooting weapons and give the team court balance to go with Glover's dynamic inside game.
Iona certainly should be every bit as good, if not better, next season.
And, here's a sneak preview ... your blogging hoopscribe perceives the Gaels as the early favorite to win next season's regular-season title.
For sure, this year's regular-season champion Fairfield will also be a major factor in 2011-12. But, the Stags lost head coach Ed Cooley to Providence and will also be adjusting to transfers who will get significant court minutes next season.
Iona has the type of stability, both from a returning cast of players and a returning head coach, that bodes well for its chances in 2011-12.