Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Men's Preview: Taking a Look at Iona

Here's another in the series previewing the upcoming men's MAAC post-season tournament.

No. 2 Iona (20-10) vs. the winner of the Siena-Manhattan play-in game, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

WHAT IONA HAS: A terrific one-two tandem in juniors 6-7 forward Michael Glover, the MAAC's 2nd-leading scorer and No. 2 nationally in field-goal percentage; and, 6-1 point guard Scott Machado, who is No. 3 nationally in assists. Iona also has solid perimeter shooting with guards Kyle Smyth No. 3 in 3-pointers made in the league (70), Jermel Jenkins 7th (61) and freshman Sean Armond adding 42 in just 9.8 minutes per contest. The team also still has rugged senior forward Alejo Rodriguez, but a variety of injuries has limited his game somewhat. It also has the best field goal percentage in the league.

WHAT IONA DOESN'T HAVE: A real banger inside. Rodriguez is the closest thing, but he's not the player it appeared he might have become before the injuries. Glover is an athlete and he's 6-7, but he's not a true "banger." Still, Iona finds a way to hold a plus-2 rebounding edge per game over opponents. It ranks 2nd from the bottom in free-throw percentage and none of its four starters who have opened at least 27 games shoots over 66 percent from the charity stripe.

HOW IONA CAN WIN: Just keep playing well. The Gaels have an active seven-game winning streak, including Sunday's 74-69 victory over top-seeded Fairfield. But, Iona will need to continue to make shots ... but that's not overly difficult when several per game are alley-oops from Machado to Glover. And, the mere threat of more keeps opponents worried enough about that to too often leave the standout perimeter shooters open. Still, if Siena gets past Manhattan in the play-in game it could be a formidable opponent. It won the first meeting of the two teams and only lost the rematch by four points.

COACH'S COMMENT: "When you have an inside-outside game it makes you a better offensive team," said Gaels' coach Tim Cluess. "We had some adjustment to start the season. We had a couple of players out, and I was a first-year coach. It took a long time for the adjustment to occur, but there was a transformation in the last month, month and a half and we've done a better job on the ecourt. I think the more they play in our system, the more they understand it."

WHAT'S AT STAKE: Advancing to Sunday's semifinal-round game and, maybe, as a 20-plus victory team (that currently has the conference's highest RPI due to some tough non-league opponents) a chance to play in a minor national post-season should it not win the MAAC event.

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