Iona finished the regular season 17-13 overall with an 11-7 league record and begin MAAC tournament play as the #4 seed. The Gaels are due to take on rival Manhattan in the quarterfinal round Saturday night at 9:30.
The Gaels’ 17 wins are their fewest through a regular season since 2013, when they also finished 11-7 in league play. However, Iona and its fans can take some comfort from the fact that in 2013, the Gaels rattled off three wins in three days to capture the MAAC title as the #4 seed, ultimately defeating Manhattan 60-57 in the championship game.
Player to Watch: #4 Schadrac Casimir, R-Jr. G
Iona has been defined by its high octane offense and three-point shooting over the last eight years under head coach Tim Cluess, and this season has been no different. The Gaels are second in the league in both Effective Field Goal Percentage (54.9%) and three-point shooting percentage (39.3%) during league play.
Leading that potent perimeter attack is redshirt junior Schadrac Casimir, who connects on 46.7% of his three-point attempts. That mark places Casimir atop the MAAC and into the top 25 nationally.
Casimir is just the Gaels’ fifth-leading scorer at 9.9 ppg, but should play a major role in the quarterfinal matchup against Manhattan. In seven career games against the Jaspers, Casimir is averaging 18.4 ppg while connecting on two-thirds of his three-point attempts.
In the Gaels’ 88-75 win over Manhattan Feb. 23, Casimir poured in a game-high 30 points on 5-7 three-point shooting. His 30 points were his most since pouring in 33 as a freshman against Marist on Feb. 8, 2015 during a campaign which would culminate in his being named MAAC Rookie of the Year.
Iona’s leading scorer Rickey McGill was recently named to the All-MAAC Second Team, and is one of the best all-around guards in the MAAC. McGill contributes 14.5 ppg along with 4.1 rebounds per game and 5.6 assists per game while shooting 39.2% from behind the arc.
“He’s been our guy that’s led us the entire season on both ends of the court,” Cluess said of McGill. “He’s the toughest guy we have on the team, and I think he’s deserving of the second team. Hopefully it’ll give him something to strive for heading into next year.”
Sophomore E.J. Crawford played the hero for Iona last season with a layup in the final minute of overtime against Siena in the MAAC final, and has taken a notable step forward this year. Crawford averages 13.1 ppg while connecting on 48.2% of his attempts.
Midway through the season, Cluess came to Crawford, stressing to his sophomore the importance of being active on the glass. Over his last nine games to end the regular season, Crawford brought down at least five rebounds on five occasions, but pulled down just one rebound in the season finale at Rider.
“On Friday he had six rebounds and led our team, and on Sunday he had one rebound,” Cluess said. “That inconsistency isn’t good enough to help us win. He needs to be more consistent in that area.”
Yet another perimeter threat and perhaps the most lethal outside of Casimir is senior Deyshonee Much, who averages 11.5 ppg and hits from behind the arc 40.6% of the time. Much was seen in a heated exchange with Cluess following the Gaels’ disappointing loss to Monmouth on Feb. 8 and was not with the team for its following two games. He returned to play in the Gaels’ final three games to end the regular season, scoring 15 points at Rider on Feb. 25.
Inside the paint, both Roland Griffin and T.K. Edogi have been reliable in their first season with Iona. Griffin averages 10.7 ppg with 5.3 rpg while shooting 52.3% from the field.
“I think he became much better in the second half of conference play,” Cluess said of Griffin. “I look forward to him having a good weekend, and I really look forward to having a full offseason with him and see what he can develop into next year.”
Edogi has come to be defined by is highlight-reel dunks which seem to show up on a nightly basis, but has been rock-steady with his feet on the ground as well. The Tulsa transfer leads the team in rebounding with 7.1 rpg while adding 8.7 ppg.
“I feel as good about my team as anybody feels about their team,” Cluess added on the tournament. “I’m really excited about it, I think we have a chance to win the whole thing, and I’m looking forward to playing.”
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.