Well, the simple answer to that question is “Yes.” Of course the Jaspers can beat the Gaels, even at the Hynes Athletic Center. If you’re playing the percentages Pomeroy gives Manhattan a 14% chance, Team Rankings says 5.8% and Accuscore says 13.8%. Let’s say it’s somewhere around 10%. That means that one out of every ten times Steve Masiello’s club pulls what some would consider a pretty big upset.
I looked at the tape from the Iona – Niagara game on ESPNU. The Gaels ended up winning that game 73-61, but the Purple Eagles had it at a five-point game with 14 minutes to play in the second half and hung around for quite a while. What did Niagara, a team that Manhattan is better than, do to keep the game close?
One of the best things the Purple Eagles did was play 2-3 zone, slow the pace down and hope that Iona missed shots. It sort of worked. The Gaels shot 6-23 from three and scored their second fewest points of the season. Canisius actually used a similar strategy. In terms of points per possession, it was Iona’s fifth worst outing of the season at 109.5 points per 100 possessions. (Yeah, Iona’s offense is really good.)
The problem for Niagara was that the Purple Eagles couldn’t score. It was Iona’s fourth best defensive effort of the season (the third best also came against the Joe Mihalich’s team). This is what I’m worried about with Manhattan. I think the Jaspers can execute defensively. The thing is, Steve Masiello’s team doesn’t play slowly very often, but they play slow enough. Mihalich said before the game against the Gaels that he wanted to hold Iona under 70 possessions. That’s a good (and reasonable) goal. Manhattan should do the same. Don’t be afraid to take the occasional run out, but when you get into the half court work the ball and look for the most open three-point shot you can find.
I don’t think Manhattan has the big men to contain Mike Glover in the paint. Or at least, the Jaspers haven’t played that style of basketball often this season. (The big men is actually why Iona’s game against Loyola (MD) on Sunday is so intriguing.) But if you deny Glover the ball his teammates are more than content to ignore him. Niagara couldn’t guard Glover once he got the ball (he shot 6-7 and scored 19 points), but he should’ve taken 15 shots. Force Iona to ignore Glover. Every possession he doesn’t touch it is one where someone less efficient on the offensive end is handling the ball.
Still, where though will Manhattan find it’s offense? Well, hitting some threes would be nice. Offensive rebounds, a place where Iona’s zone defense is particularly vulnerable, is another. The Jaspers will also have to avoid turnovers. This game will be a blowout if Manhattan turns the ball over 20 times.
This isn’t Iona’s offense vs. Manhattan’s defense. This is two teams looking for a win. (Also, saying the first thing discredits the fact that Iona has the second best per possession defense in the MAAC.) There’s a blueprint to beat the Gaels, but it’s going to be a tough one for Manhattan to pull off.