Monday, March 10, 2014

Iona-Manhattan Men's Title Game Attractive Match

It's an all-New York metropolitan area championship game of the MAAC men's post-season tournament, an attractive meeting of the teams picked as the preseason favorite to claim the regular-season crown (Manhattan) and the program that won it (Iona).

Attractive, enthralling, competitive and interesting. Certainly something good for college basketball interest in the New York City area.

It's a rematch of last season's compeling championship game, won by Iona by a 70-67 score. The schools are located a scant 9.3 miles from each other. Each's roster is filled with players who know each other well, who work out together and compete in pick-up games with and against each other in summer months.

It's a meeting of this season's top two teams, probably as good a match as the MAAC could have this season.

Just don't try to convince Manhattan coach Steve Masiello of that.

While his Jaspers universally professed they were embracing the opportunity for bringing the NYC rivalry to the Springfield, Mass., stage and the MassMutual Center, Masiello said he'd prefer to be playing any opponent other than Iona.

"Playing Iona again ... I love it," said Manhattan's senior swingman George Beamon, moments after his team defeated Quinnipiac, 87-68, in Sunday night's semifinal-round contest.

"I hate it," Masiello quickly injected. "I don't want to play them. They're really good.

"I want no part of Iona. They are terrific. They're an NCAA tournament team and, on a given night, they'll go out and beat a No. 2 or a No. 3 seed."

Masiello, of course, was stretching the issue more than a little for psychological purposes. Still, Iona has proven to be a difficult match for everyone in the league this season.

"You think we had a tough bracket? We had to play a terrific defensive team in Saint Peter's in our first game here," said Masiello. "Then we had to play Quinnipiac, the best-rebounding team in the country. And, now, we get Iona ... great, thanks."

Iona, though, comes in off a tough semifinal round contest, a 75-72 victory over Canisius.

Still, the Gaels have one of the most-explosive offenses in the country, the fourth highest-scoring team nationally.

While the Jaspers are hardly a slow-it-down team offensively, they rely as much on their defensive prowess to win games.

"Regardless of which teams wins, we both should go to the NCAA tournament," added Masiello.

Considering their respective positions in the Ratings Percentage Index (Iona is 66th nationally, Manhattan 77th), a complicated formula used by the NCAA selection committee as a tool to help the process of selecting tournament teams, the loser would appear to be a longshot for an NCAA at-large berth.

"If they (the selection-committee members) are who I think they are, they'll take (tonight's losing team) as an at-large pick," added Masiello. "The RPI ... we know what it is, but we don't know what it is. We're two of the best 68 teams out there. That, I know.

"There used to be an eye test. People can look at teams and just know that they're NCAA tournament teams.

"Iona is Iona. They're a great team. I just feel that we're a great team, too. It's going to be a show (tonight). They'll be ready to play, and we'll be ready to play, too."

No comments: