Iona Dancing Again as MAAC Champions

The Iona Gaels will get a chance to redeem themselves. A season after losing the biggest lead in NCAA tournament history the Gaels are headed back to the Big Dance after winning the MAAC’s automatic bid with a 60-57 victory over Manhattan in Springfield, MA.

The Gaels were the best team in the MAAC this season, but – due to six losses by three points or fewer – slipped all the way to fourth seed in the conference tournament. Iona then went through the #5, #1 and #6 seeds to win the conference title. In the process Tim Cluess’ team answered some questions about how the team performs under pressure in close games. Iona also showed that it could win low-scoring games. The Gaels scored the fewest points they have all season in the championship game victory.

Manhattan, which had to change its entire identity after losing preseason All-MAAC First Team player George Beamon to an ankle injury, managed to reinvent itself enough to come within a few possessions of winning the MAAC title. (The loss continues the streak of the 3/6 game winner never capturing the league title.) The Jaspers slowed the pace down and ground out victories. The defense was one of the best in the nation. It performed again on Monday, holding Iona to exactly a point per possession. The offense just couldn’t score quite enough to squeeze out a trip to Dayton.

Now Iona should receive a decent seed in the NCAA tournament, if Tre Bowman plays the way he did on Monday night, scoring 20 points on 7-9 shooting along with three steals, five rebounds and a block the Gaels can beat any team in the country. Bowman has been the missing piece this season, a versatile wing player. When he plays well the Gaels are even more formidable.

In the end it all worked out. Momo Jones came home and the point guard from Harlem by way of Arizona has now led Iona to two straight NCAA tournaments. He scored 14 points on 13 shots in the victory.

Assuming Steve Masiello comes back to Riverdale the Jaspers, which finished the season 14-18, should be even more dangerous. Masiello will have all the talent he envisioned having this season for sure next season as Beamon will return from his injury, Maryland transfer Ashton Pankey will be eligible and Chris Thomas – a five-star junior college recruit, assuming he makes it to the Bronx – should help fill out the lineup. It’s good that Iona got the Jaspers this season, because it’s about to get real difficult.

2 thoughts on “Iona Dancing Again as MAAC Champions

  1. Massiello’s immature behavior cost his team the game when he got the T after 2 warnings. Although the T against Iona with .1 second left was ridiculous.


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