Iona’s Assists or Why the Offense Will Stay Strong

This season the Iona offense was run by the steady hand of Scott Machado. One of the nation’s best point guards, Machado led the nation in assists per game during the 2011-12 season. He was also fourth in assist rate (behind Utah’s Josh Watkins, Penn State’s Tim Frazier and UNC’s Kendall Marshall). As you’ll see below, Machado was a big driver in the success of a number of players’ success this season. Of course, Machado is a senior and will be heading to the NBA next season. The keys are going to be turned over to Lamont “Momo” Jones in 2012-13.

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Season At A Glance — Iona

This is the seventh of what will eventually be capsules for each of the NYC teams when I’m sure their season has concluded.

Team: Iona

Record: 25-8 (15-3 in the MAAC)

Season High: Winning at Denver

Season Low: Blowing an 18-point lead at Siena (though I’d guess the NCAA loss to BYU hurts more)

Really Good At: Making shots — Iona had the fourth best effective field goal percentage in the nation during the regular season at 56.7%. The Gaels could knock down twos (55.7%, a lot in transition) or threes (39.3%) with the best of the them.

Struggled With: Defensive consistency – For a team with so much talent, Iona struggled quite a bit defensively. The Gaels often gave up easy shots on the opposite end. Against the shorter three-guard lineup Iona often employed rebounds were tough to get.

Key Losses:

  • Mike Glover (18.5 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 64.4% FG%, All-MAAC First Team)
  • Scott Machado (13.6 PPG, 9.9 APG, 5.0 RPG, 1.6 SPG, MAAC Player of the Year)
  • Jermel Jenkins (5.2 PPG, 90.0% FT%)
  • Randy Dezouvre (5.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG)

Key Returnees:

  • Momo Jones, Jr., G (16.0 PPG, 3.0 APG, All-MAAC Second Team)
  • Taaj Ridley, Jr., F (6.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 51.4% FG%)
  • Sean Armand, So., G (128.7 Offensive Rating – 9th in the country, 46.7% 3PT%)
  • Ra’Shad James, Jr., G (3.0 PPG, 1.5 RPG)
  • Kyle Smith, Jr., G (5.7 PPG, 93.8% FT%)

Outlook: Different. As Glover and Machado graduate this will become Jones’ team. He’ll still have a host of talented complementary players around him. Armand is a lights out shooter and Smyth can also launch the rock. With Dezouvre and Ridley graduating there might be some changes up front. I’d expect Josh Gomez to see some more playing time next season. It might not quite be the run-and-gun style of this season because the team will be quite a bit younger. Iona never quite reached the level people thought the Gaels might in 2011-12. Those expectations will be gone next season and could free the team to be even more successful while in a dog fight in the MAAC. Iona won’t be the class of the league like it was in 2011-12, when it outscored opponents by 0.21 points per possession, but it should be right there.

Why Iona reminds me of VCU

Last season, after losing in the CAA Tournament, VCU got shuffled off the First Four in Dayton. The Rams barely made the field and fans were lashing out about how Shaka Smart’s team managed to get into the field over some more deserving candidates. Then the games started and the critics shut up. VCU rattled off five straight victories before falling to Butler in the Final Four.

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Machado and Glover near top of Value Add

Scott Machado and Mike Glover of Iona are in the top 60 players in the entire country according to Value Add, a statistic created by John Pudner. You can see the list of the Top 200 on the site there. Interestingly, three NEC players also appear in Value Add, but it’s not who you’d expect. There’s Central Connecticut’s Ken Horton (#27) and then Wagner’s Tyler Murray (#144) and Quinnipiac’s Ike Azotam (#162). Pouring over I’m guessing that a slight adjustment for playing time is why Azotam is on the list and LIU’s Julian Boyd isn’t. It’s also interesting that Murray’s 124.6 offensive rating is enough to make up for his relatively low usage rate (just 17.1%) and put him in the Top 150.

Tempo-free MAAC: The more things change…

At the beginning of the season there was a four-horse race at the top of the MAAC standings according to most pundits. Well here we are with just a few weeks left in the regular season and we’re right back where we started. The MAAC is a four-horse race. All you have to do resolve things is change the name Rider with Manhattan and you’ve got pretty much what everyone expected. There’s a talented Iona team leading the pack and four teams in the Top 125 on KenPom that can beat each other on any given night.

That’s right, we’re officially welcoming Fairfield back into the fold after the Stags went to Baltimore and did what Iona couldn’t in a convincing 68-51 win in 62 possessions. That’s a dominating performance and it all comes down to match ups. That’s why even though the Gaels look like a heavy favorite right now and are still the top team in the conference according to efficiency margin, they’re certainly beatable.

Tempo-free Standings:

1. Iona (12-3) — +0.204
2. Manhattan (11-4) — +0.132
3. Fairfield (10-4) — +0.100
4. Loyola (MD) (12-3) — +0.095
5. Rider (8-7) — +0.024
6. Niagara (6-9) — -0.047
7. Siena (6-9) — -0.056
8. Marist (4-10) — -0.116
9. St. Peter’s (4-11) — -0.163
10. Canisius (1-14) — -0.180

I’d like to note here that Iona’s efficiency margin in conference is pretty darn impressive. The Gaels though have been inconsistent and its cost them a couple wins and made things interesting at the top of the standings. Scott Machado triple-doubles are going to help this team make it through, but I think it’s telling that he grabbed 11 rebounds. Iona needs him to do it. Still, Fairfield won the league last season at a +0.13, that’s like Manhattan this season. The Gaels are on another level.


Best Offense: Iona at 1.18 points per possession
Best Defense: Manhattan (just barely) at 0.921 points allowed per possession (Fairfield is #2 at 0.922)
Worst Offense: St. Peter’s at 0.89 points per possession
Worst Defense: Canisius at 1.11 points allowed per possession
Luckiest: St. Peter’s at 2.1 wins above expected
Unluckiest:  Iona at 1.5 wins below expected

Your highest variance contender (out of the top four) is Manhattan. The highest variance teams overall are Rider and Marist. The lowest variance team overall is still Loyola (MD) and then Fairfield and Canisius.

Iona is growing up

Three and a half weeks ago Iona was the lead dog in the MAAC. The Gaels were undefeated and controlled their own destiny up by 17 against Manhattan at the Hynes Athletic Center. Then everything changed. Iona collapsed and the Jaspers pulled out a dramatic 75-72 victory. Tim Cluess’ squad got to show just how much it had learned from that moment on Saturday at Draddy Gymnasium.

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Iona loses 18-point lead in loss to Siena

Twenty days ago at Madison Square Garden Iona handed Siena its worst ever Division I conference loss, 95-59. Five minutes into Monday night’s game in Albany the Gaels looked to be well on their way to a similar result up 20-2, but the end result was anything but what they expected. Siena clawed back and pulled out a 65-62 win to send Iona into a three-way tie atop the MAAC with Loyola (MD) and Manhattan at 7-2.

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