Postseason Preview: Iona vs. East Tennessee State

Iona heads to Johnson City, Tennessee to take on East Tennessee State in the semifinals of the Tournament on Saturday afternoon in a game that pits two talented mid-major teams from the MAAC and Atlantic Sun. The Gaels were probably the best team besides Maryland to not receive an NIT invitation and they’ve done nothing to discredit that reputation since postseason play began. Iona went on the road to Valparaiso and came away with a convincing victory and then took out Buffalo at home on Tuesday.

That’s why Iona is actually favored in this game by Ken Pomeroy’s rankings by exactly one point, 72-71 (57%), even on the road. Of course ETSU has some strengths as well. The Buccaneers recorded two convincing victories over Furman and Ohio on their way to semifinals, but neither of those teams is even close to the same level as Iona. That said, the Basketball State rankings on BBState, have Iona 67th and ETSU 60th. So this seems to be a game between two pretty evenly matched squads.

What this game will come down to is how well the Gales are able to get good looks at the basket. While Iona ranks ninth in the nation in two-point percentage shooting, ETSU ranks 42nd in two-point percentage defense. Just as offense is relatively Iona’s strength, defense is ETSU’s, so whichever unit wins out on that side of the court will probably take home the victory.

While Iona’s offense is pretty balanced, ETSU leans heavily on 6’6 senior guard Mike Smith. He uses 26.6% of the team’s possessions and is the Buccaneers’ second most efficient scorer. In two of ETSU’s last three losses he’s scored 14 points, so if the Gaels can hold him to that mark they’ll certainly have a chance at pulling out the win. Iona should also be wary of senior guard Justin Tubbs. He’s scored 27 and 25 points in the past two games after scoring just five in ETSU’s Atlantic Sun tournament loss to North Florida.


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