Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Patsos Jumps On Iona's NCAA At-Large Bandwagon

A day after claiming that it did not look like Iona would get an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament, Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos changed his mind and became one of the Gaels' most-ardent supporters in their quest for a spot in the NCAA field.

After Sunday's MAAC tournament happenings, that included Iona's elimination with a loss to Fairfield in the semifinal round, Patsos speculated that Iona probably deserved to get into the field, but that it would not.

Here's what Patsos had to say on Sunday night about Iona's chances: "I think our league is the "Little Engine That Could," but it's really not my place to say. It's hard to tell. We might have a couple teams going to the CBI or CIT (post-season events), and the NIT will take a team from our league ... and that's good for our league. I think Iona deserves it after the year it has, but I don't think it will get in (to the NCAA's), and that's unfortunate."

After his team's Monday championship game, though, Patsos became a strong proponent for an Iona at-large berth, even chastising ESPN bracketology guru Joe Lunardi (who wasn't present) by name for leaving Iona out of his projected field.

"Whoever is listening, and I thought about this today ... Iona deserves to be in," said Patsos, during Monday night's post-championship game press conference. "They've got 25 wins, they're 38th in the RPI (48 as of Wednesday morning) and they don't back down.

"Tell Joe Lunardi that all he talks about is schedule. Well, they went out and played everybody and they beat everybody. They have two NBA players on their team. When the Missouri Valley and CAA get two in ... well, it's time for the MAAC to get two in, Joe Lunardi. Just because we don't have any 17,000-seat arenas, Iona was the best team in the league and they deserve it.

"I'll tell you want, Fairfield gave it to everyone who wanted it this year. Manhattan ... Steve Masiello did a good job this year, and we were lucky to beat them. But Iona was the best team in this league day in and day out. They deserve to be in."

History, however, is working against Iona. In the 31-year history of the MAAC only one of its men's teams has been selected as an at-large team to the NCAA tournament. That was Manhattan in 1995 when it won the regular-season title but was upset in the MAAC's post-season tournament.

Manhattan had a 25-3 record after MAAC tournament play that year and, then, earned a first-round NCAA tournament victory over Oklahoma, 77-67, before losing to Arizona State in the round of 32.

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