Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Preview: Iona Men Reloaded For Another Title Run

Here's another in the series previewing conference teams.

Up now ...


2012-13 RECORD: 11-7 in the MAAC, 20-14 overall.

KEY LOSSES: Guard Momo Jones (22.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists last season), forward Taaj Ridley (8.2, 5.6), guard Dennis Curtis (3.8, 1.4).

KEY NEWCOMERS: Senior 6-foot-6 swingman Mike Poole, transfer from Rutgers, 6-7 sophomore guard Isaiah Williams, transfer from State College of Florida Manatee junior college.

EARLY STARTERS: 6-9 junior forward David Laury (13.1 points, 10.3 rebounds, last year's totals), 6-5 senior guard Sean Armand (16.6, 5.1), 6-5 senior guard Trey Bowman (8.3, 3.80, 6-4 sophomore guard A.J. Williams (7.0, 2.5), 6-7 sophomore guard Williams.

NOTABLE: The Gaels suffered through a 1-6 mid-season slide last season before winning their last two regular-season games and, then, all three MAAC tournament games to represent the league in the NCAA Tournament. There, they got a tough draw, a very good Ohio State squad, which knocked off Iona, 95-70 ... Any time a program loses a player the caliber of Momo Jones, the league's Player of the Year, there's usually a dropoff. But, this is the program that also lost the previous season's Player of the Year in Scott Machado after the 2011-12 season and barely skipped a beat last season ... Looks like more of the same for Iona, which just reloads, albeit in non-traditional style. Five of the team's top seven players in terms of playing time thus far began their college careers elsewhere. Two of them are newcomers Poole and Williams ... Jones' scoring load has been picked up by Armand, who is averaging 22.1 ppg. thus far ... Laury has also increased his scoring average (15.1 ppg.) by two points per game, Bowma (12.3) by four points pr game and English (13.1) by 6.1 ppg. ... English, an exciting, athletic sophomore, missed the second half of last season with an injury but has come back at 100 percent and looks to be an emerging standout who should develop into one of the MAAC's best players, possibly a worthy successor to the guard assembly line that, of late, has included Machado, Jones and, now, Armand ... Ridley never averaged double figures for Iona, but his 5. rebounds per game will be missed ... Currently the Gaels are getting outrebounded by 1.9 per game ... The team's two losses came to a strong Cleveland State team (by four points) and national powerhouse Kansas (by 10) ... Iona led the country in points per game last season at 80.4 .... It's not quite there this year, but it's not far off at 79.4 ppg. Still, scoring is up this year and that average only ranks 60th nationally ... But, bigger totals are coming. Iona is averaging 87.3 ppg. in its last four contests ... The team's field goal percentage is a commendable 47.2 so far, 78th best nationally ... And, the Gaels continue to take care of the ball, committing fewer than 12 turnovers per game and have 112 assists vs. 82 turnovers so far, a surprising positive ratio considering the team's preferred up-tempo style of play.

STRENGTHS: As always, it seems, terrific outside shooting. Armand is already the program's all-time leader in made three pointers and has 24 through seven games thus far. English and Williams also average at least two treys per contest. Laury is among the best big men in the conference and is also extremely versatile. He's as good a passer as he is a scorer/rebounder.

WEAKNESSES: Rebounding. Laury averages 8.7 per game, and Williams is next at 4.9. While Williams is listed as 6-foot-7, he's basically a perimeter player. Iona has four guards on the court most of the time, but all four are 6-4 or taller.

REASONABLE EXPECTATION: League coaches, in their preseason poll, tabbed Iona for second. Your blogger agreed in preseason predictions. There's no change here now after early results. We'll still go with Manhattan as the favorite to capture the regular-season crown, but Iona isn't far off. It would be a bit of a surprise if Iona doesn't finish in one of the top two spots.

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