Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Iona's Chance for NCAA's Slim, But Not Over

Iona's chance to hear its name called as an at-large selection Sunday night for the NCAA tournament field?

It doesn't look good, despite a 25-7 record and a current RPI of of 46. The Gaels' chances were severely compromised by their upset loss in the MAAC tournament's semifinal round to a Fairfield team that has only 19 victories. Chances for an at-large would have been much better had they won that won and, then, lost in the championship contest.

Tough to leave out a 25-win regular-season champion, but this wasn't one of the MAAC's finer years. Canisiuus and Saint Peter's both had down years, and Iona's four victories over those two teams actually caused its RPI to drop after each of those contests.

What the Gaels do have is three victories over teams in the Ratings Percentage Index's top 55: Denver (No. 44), Nevada (No. 46) and St. Joseph's (No. 55). It had three wins over fairly solid teams, beating Maryland (a 16-14 record), Vermont (22-11) and Richmond (16-16).

On the other hand, here's the argument against Iona's inclusion, as posted by Eamonn Brennan, who writes for ESPN about Iona in his "Bubble Watch" for the NCAA event:

"After the Gaels lost to Fairfield in the MAAC tournament semifinals ... coach Tim Cluess had a bubble-related message to unfurl: `If you're going to pick eight or nine teams out of the Big East, that's nonsense. Those teams aren't as good as we are.' He might have a point. The problem is that his team hasn't proven it. Iona had a chance to beat Purdue in November in Puerto Rico (losing by a point); it didn't. Iona had a chance to beat Marshall in December; it lost 82-63. On Dc. 29, Iona lost at Hofstra; a team with RPI ranked outside the top 250. (Oucn). This weekend, it had a chance to prove how good it was -- by beating Fairfield and the rest of the MAAC, and locking up an automatic bid. It didn't. Much as we love Scott Machado and the Gaels' considerable talent -- and much as we would love to see Iona in the tournament -- the Watch must admit that a team with this sort of resume doesn't deserve special consideration because its coach happens to think it's better than the eighth or ninth team in the Big East. We're not saying he's wrong. We're simply saying that the profile is what it is. As such, Iona probably needs to get lucky along the cut line in the next few days -- or get a lucky break from the committee -- to get back in the legitimate tourney fold."

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