Iona flaunts offense, proves it’s tournament caliber in BracketBusters win over Nevada

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NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – As low-scoring affairs proliferate around the country, today’s BracketBusters game between Nevada and Iona gave us something far different.

Despite an inconclusive at-large impact, these two offensive-minded teams provided a nice respite from the many slow-paced and low efficiency games we’ve become accustomed to as the Gaels  prevailed with a 90-84 win, the first ever meeting between the two programs.

With 13 NBA scouts and a national audience fixated on the play of the Gaels Scott Machado, the senior guard may have turned the Best Point Guard in the Country argument into a definitive statement, finishing with a game high 15 assists (eclipsing Siena’s Ronald Moore’s to become the MAAC’s all-time leader) including a handful of dazzling passes that left Wolf Pack defenders flummoxed.

The consummate point guard, Machado attempted only seven shots but still managed to finish with 13-points, contributing  to exactly half of his team’s point total.

“He knows each of his teammate’s strengths and where different guys can score,” said Iona head coach Tim Cluess after the game. “And because he’s shooting the three well this year, people have to honor that. When he comes off a pick and roll…that sometimes takes two defenders, and he knows where the open guy is.”

Trailing for most of the opening minutes, the Gaels turned the game in their favor with three minutes remaining in the first half. Down six, Iona went on a 13-6 run to take the lead by applying a full-court press that buckled the Wolfpack’s offensive attack, a run that was spearheaded by many of the team’s bench players.

In the second half, Clueess kept the game in fifth gear by continuing with a high-energy press that wore the Wolf Pack down. The strategy helped turn 16 forced turnovers in to 20 of his team’s points, and proved to be the key to victory.

Following the loss, a portion of the attention and post-game praise went to Nevada’s Olek Czyz. A former Duke Blue Devil who returned home to Reno in 2010 to finish out his college career, Czyz showed versatility at both ends of the court, finishing with career high 28-points on 9-16 shooting.

With both teams currently projected as NCAA Tournament #12 seeds, the door to securing an at-large bid may be closed; their hopes hinge on winning their respective conference tournaments.

While Nevada appears to lack enough ball-handlers to compete with an up-tempo type team for 40-minutes, the Gaels certainly have the personnel to stir an upset in the NCAA Tournament, assuming they can play some semblance of defense to compliment their vaunted offense.

While Machado, “MoMo” Jones and Mike Glover demand a majority of the attention this team receives, the Gaels bench is composed of a number of shooters that help spread the floor and keep defenders honest, including guard Randy Dezouvre, who finished tonight’s game with a career high 17-points on 8-10 shooting.

“My man Randy is the energy guy that helps off the bench,” Machado said after the game. “Our bench got stops and forced turnovers to help us get the lead before half. This was a big game, and we’re just trying to get on a roll before the playoffs.”

At 13-3 with only two conference games remaining, the Gaels currently hold a one-game lead over Loyola. With wins over Maryland and St. Joseph’s, many expected a near perfect MAAC campaign to follow and a historic season to be in the works.

But because of a few unforeseen losses, even the guys in-house aren’t looking to declare themselves as automatic quality.

“Who am I to judge? But we definitely just want to be in the tournament,” Machado said. “We can compete with anybody, as long as we bring it.”

Nick Fasulo is the manager of Searching for Billy Edelin. Follow him on Twitter @billyedelinSBN.

Reports: Duke’s Frank Jackson to declare for draft

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Frank Jackson will declare for the draft but will not be signing with an agent, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Previous reports had indicated that Jackson “planned” to return to school, and that still may end up proving true. But the combination of Trevon Duval potentially enrolling at Duke combined with the fact that there is zero downside to going through the draft process, it makes sense for Jackson to declare.

Jackson averaged 10.9 points and shot 39.5 percent from three. He’s projected as a mid-first round pick in 2018 by Draft Express, but at 6-foot-3, he’s too small to play the two in the NBA and has yet to prove he can be a point guard.

Jackson is the fourth Duke player to declare, following Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles III and Luke Kennard. All three signed with an agent. Grayson Allen and Marques Bolden are both returning to school.

VIDEO: Top 2018 recruits Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford go head-to-head at adidas

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This weekend is the first live evaluation period of the spring recruiting calendar as college coaches from all over the country are scouting (and babysitting) the top recruits in the Class of 2018 and 2019.

Friday night the adidas Gauntlet in Dallas opened with a marquee matchup of two star players as five-star forward Zion Williamson and five-star guard Romeo Langford went head-to-head in what should be one of the best games of the spring.

Most scouting services have Williamson and Langford as the No. 2 and No. 3 overall prospects in the Class of 2018 as the duo didn’t disappoint in front of the huge crowd in Fort Worth.

Williamson helped his team to a win with 26 points and seven rebounds while Langford had 28 points, four rebounds and four assists. You’ll be hearing plenty about both of these guys over the next few months as both are still wide open in the recruting process.

(H/t: Ball is Life)

Report: Coppin State hires Juan Dixon as new head coach

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Coppin State has hired former Maryland star guard Juan Dixon to be its next head coach, according to a report from Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun.

The 38-year-old Dixon is best known for leading Maryland to the 2002 national championship as he was the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four that year. Now Dixon will have a chance to lead a Division I program for the first time.

Dixon spent seven years in the NBA and also played professionally in Europe before joining the Maryland coaching staff in 2013 as a special assistant to head coach Mark Turgeon. Not retained by Maryland after the 2015-16 season, Dixon took the head coaching job for the women’s team at the University of the District of Columbia last season as the Division II program finished only  3-25.

Coppin State finished last season with an 8-24 record after losing its first 12 games of the season. While Dixon will generate some positive local buzz given his background, he’s going to have an uphill battle trying to rebuild that program.

Nebraska scores important Class of 2017 commitment from four-star guard Thomas Allen

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Nebraska landed an important commitment from the Class of 2017 on Friday as four-star guard Thomas Allen is heading to Lincoln next season.

The 6-foot-1 guard is considered the No. 99 overall prospect by Rivals in the national Class of 2017 rankings as Allen was previously committed to N.C. State before head coach Mark Gottfried was fired.

A scorer with a good amount of skill, Allen has a chance to come in and make an immediate impact at Nebraska as he can play a bit on or off the ball. Allen should help offset the loss of senior Tai Webster in the Husker backcourt.

Allen joins wing Nana Akenten in Nebraska’s Class of 2017 recruiting efforts.

North Carolina lands four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks

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North Carolina pulled in a late Class of 2017 commitment to begin the weekend as the Tar Heels secured a pledge from four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks.

The 6-foot-9, 225-pound Brooks was previously committed to Mississippi State, but he was granted his release this spring to explore other opportunities.

The Tar Heels pounced as they’re getting a low-post threat who could develop into a potential double-double threat. A solid rebounder who isn’t afraid to play with physicality, Brooks has a chance to earn some immediate rotation minutes with seniors like Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks exhausting their eligibility.

Brooks is regarded as the No. 120 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, according to Rivals, as he is a four-star prospect. The native of Auburn, Alabama joins a North Carolina recruiting class that includes point guard Jalek Felton, shooting guard Andrew Platek and big men Brandon Huffman and Sterling Manley.