Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Iona Players Confident They Can Beat Ohio State

It's usually unwise to grab a sleeping tiger by the tail. Nor, is it advised to tug on Superman's cape.

But, the Iona men's basketball team clearly didn't get those memos.

The Gaels, who finished in fourth place in the MAAC's regular-season standing before capturing the league's automatic NCAA tournament berth by winning the conference's post-season event, are a huge underdog in their opening-round game against Ohio State, the No. 2 seed in their bracket.

That doesn't matter, though, to a couple Iona players.

"To me, it's not an upset, it's a game we should win, it's a game we're capable of winning," Iona's junior guard Sean Armand told the New York Post earlier this week. "To the rest of the world, it's going to be an upset, a 15 (seed) beating a 2. But, if we win this game we're doing what we're supposed to do."

Asked to predict the outcome, Armand said, "I'm planning to play on Sunday (the tournament's second round). That's all I'm going to say.

Armand isn't alone in speaking confidently about the prospects of toppling the Buckeyes.

"I don't buy the mid-major thing," senior guard Momo Jones told the Post. "We played against great teams, we played against big conferences (including an early season victory over Wake Forest of the ACC) and we've won, so it's no different from going to the NCAA tournament and winning.

"Whether or not people see it as an upset or not, when I get back in that hotel, when we happen to win a game, it's going to be a regular game. It's not going to be any more celebrating than any other game."

Still, that could be a significant celebration if it matches the players' post-game reaction after winning the MAAC tournament's championship contest, when players danced on the court for well over 10 minutes and several went into the stands to hug family members and friends.

"I feel like we're supposed to win, and if we win, it's not going to be like, 'Oh, we beat Ohio State,' It's OK, on to the next round. I honestly believe like we belong. I honestly feel like we can win."

Your correspondent has interviewed both Armand and Jones on multiple occasions, and has always enjoyed their candor and brutal honesty. Neither is afraid to speak his mind.

And, is that such a bad thing? Do any players go into any game believing they don't have a chance to win?

Hopefully not.

Still, if Ohio State needed any incentive to avoid overlooking a less-heralded opening-game opponent, Iona certainly came through with the proverbial bulletin board material.

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