NCAA March Madness Preview – Iona Gaels

Iona Gaels

MAAC (22-12, 12-8)

by Joel Welser

Iona had a lot of talent to replace from last year’s NCAA team. Most expected they would take a step back and that was partially the case. The Gaels finished 12-8 in MAAC play, tied for third and six games back on conference winner Monmouth. But Coach Tim Cluess’ team is playing their best basketball in March and beat Rider, Saint Peter’s and Siena, in overtime, to claim the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

Big Wins: 11/27 vs Nevada (75-73), 12/10 Ohio (79-75), 3/6 at Siena (87-86)

Bad Losses: 12/4 Niagara (58-74), 12/28 at Delaware (54-63), 1/14 at Quinnipiac (91-97)

Coach: Tim Cluess

Why They Can Surprise:

Iona does not lack for shooters. The team ranks 16th in the country in three-point field goals made per game and knocks down 39.7 percent of those attempts. Sam Cassell, Jr. is the most prolific outside shooter and averages 10.8 points per game. And Jon Severe, Schadrac Casimir and E.J. Crawford all shoot at least 43.0 percent from beyond the arc. Rickey McGill and Deyshonee Much are not afraid to shoot either. McGill is also the player who sets up his teammates. He has dished out 5.2 assists per game and when McGill is getting to the basket and creating space for the shooters, Iona can score in bunches.

Why They Can Disappoint:

The opposition also often has to collapse in the paint to contain 6-8 forward Jordan Washington. He leads the team with 17.9 points and 7.4 rebounds and is the leader of a very balanced scoring attack. The problem is, other than Taylor Bessick and Washington, there is not much size on this team. Bessick is a decent shot blocker and rebounder, but this team will often get beat on the glass and when Bessick is not on the floor, it is often far too easy for the opposition to attack the basket. But this is an Iona team that can outscore just about anybody. When the Gaels are having a good shooting night, they can beat anybody, but it will have to be any amazing display of shooting ability for Iona to pull off a big upset in the NCAA Tournament.

Probable Starters:

Rickey McGill, Sophomore, Guard, 10.8 ppg, 5.2 apg, 1.8 spg

Schadrac Casimir, Sophomore, Guard, 7.0 ppg, 1.4 apg

Deyshonee Much, Junior, Guard, 9.3 ppg, 1.9 apg, 1.5 spg

E.J. Crawford, Freshman, Guard, 9.4 ppg, 1.1 apg

Jordan Washington, Senior, Forward, 17.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg

Key Role Players:

Taylor Bessick, Senior, Forward, 3.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.2 bpg

Jon Severe, Senior, Guard, 11.3 ppg, 2.2 apg

Sam Cassell Jr., Senior, Guard, 10.8 ppg, 3.1 apg

By the Numbers:

Scoring Offense: 80.3 (34th in nation, 2nd in conference)

Scoring Defense: 76.1 (264, 6)

Field-Goal Percentage: 45.4 (120, 2)

Field-Goal Defense: 43.3 (158, 4)

Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 9.8 (16, 1)

Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 39.7 (18, 1)

Free-Throw Percentage: 76.7 (17, 1)

Rebound Margin: -1.8 (260, 8)

Assists Per Game: 15.8 (50, 2)

Turnovers Per Game: 12.2 (84, 2)

Recent Postseason Appearances:

2016    NCAA Round of 64 loss to Iowa State

2015    NIT     First Round loss to Rhode Island

2014    NIT     First Round loss to Louisiana Tech

2013    NCAA Round of 64 loss to Ohio State

2012    NCAA Opening Round loss to BYU

2011    CIT      First Round win over Valparaiso

2011    CIT      Quarterfinal win over Buffalo

2011    CIT      Semifinal win over East Tennessee State

2011    CIT      Final loss to Santa Clara

2006    NCAA Round of 64 loss to LSU

2001    NCAA Round of 64 loss to Mississippi

2000    NCAA Round of 64 loss to Maryland

1998    NCAA Round of 64 loss to Syracuse

*all team stats through 3/5

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