Iona says first MAAC title since ’01 ‘nothing to celebrate’

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Iona’s 77-72 win against Fairfield Friday night earned the Gaels their first regular-season Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title in more than a decade, something that won’t surprise anyone who’s seen them play this season.

Iona (23-6, 14-3) features two guys who have shot at making NBA rosters in point guard Scott Macado and forward Mike Glover, not to mention shooting guard Momo Jones, who was a key part of Arizona’s run to the Elite Eight last season. Throw in sophomore Sean Armand – who scored all 17 of his points vs. Fairfield in the second half, 15 of which in a 5-minute span – and Iona has enough talent to run away with the league title and win an NCAA tournament game.

Yet a few puzzling losses in which Iona blew double-digit leads to Siena and Manhattan kept things close until the last few weeks.

Maybe that’s why Iona didn’t pop any bubbly Friday night (metaphorically speaking; some guys aren’t 21). They expected this.

From the NY Daily News:

“There’s nothing to celebrate,” Armand said. “We did what we were supposed to do, we were preseason No. 1. We felt like we should be No. 1 and that’s what we did. So now we’re going to go to Springfield (for the MAAC Tournament) and we’ll go from there.”

Machado agreed with Armand’s take on the lack of celebration.

“Like Sean said, we were predicted to be No. 1 and felt like we were supposed to be No. 1 so this is just the beginning. We want something bigger than this.”

Something bigger would be Iona’s second-ever NCAA tournament win. The Gaels have been to the Big Dance eight times, but their only win came back in 1980 vs. Holy Cross. The coach? None other than Jim Valvano, who would win an NCAA title just a few years later with N.C. State.

That’d be quite the feat for Tim Cluess to match.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Denzel Valentine, the nation’s best player?

Denzel Valentine
AP Photo/Alex Gallardo
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(This will be updated throughout the day.)

GAME OF THE DAY: Syracuse 74, No. 25 Texas A&M 67

The Orange got 20 points from Michael Gbinije and 15 points and five assists from Trevor Cooney as they won the Battle 4 Atlantis title on Friday afternoon. We wrote on this game earlier. Are the Orange for real this year?


Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: 32 points, nine boards, six assists

No. 3 Michigan State beat Boise State 77-67 in the semifinals of the Wooden Legacy out in California, but the result of that game is less important than the result of Valentine’s night. A night after notching his second triple-double of the season, Valentine took over another way on Friday, hitting five straight threes in the span of about five minutes to put the Spartans up double-figures in a game they were struggling to take control of.

In three games against high-major competition, Valentine is now averaging 30.0 points, 10.7 boards and 9.3 assists. He has been, unequivocally, the best player in college basketball this season.

No. 10 Gonzaga 73, No. 17 UConn 70: Eric McClellan and Kyle Dranginis made some big plays down the stretch as the Bulldogs held on to win a game they led by as much as 21 in the second half. Kyle Wiltjer scored a team-best 17 points for Gonzaga, which finished third at the Battle 4 Atlantis. Rob Dauster wrote more about the Bulldogs and their second-half performance here.

Alabama 64, No. 20 Wichita State 60: Not only did the Shockers drop their second straight at the AdvoCare Invitational, but they also saw Anton Grady leave the game on a stretcher after being involved in a scary second-half collision. He was awake and alert shortly after leaving the court. While the Shockers’ losses to USC and Alabama don’t help them from an NCAA tournament standpoint, the bigger issue is the team’s health.


Quincy Ford, Northeastern: Not only did he score 24 points in the upset win over No. 15 Miami, but he hit the game-winning jumper, too. Video here.


Wichita State’s bigs: Five of them (Anton Grady, Zach Brown, Rashard Kelly, Bush Wakumota, Eric Hamilton) finished a combined 3-for-21 from the floor with 14 points and 14 fouls. Wakumota shot one of the worst threes you’ll ever see with Wichita State down 62-60 with 10 seconds left.

Grady suffered a scary neck injury late in the game, but early reports sound positive.


  • Jamal Murray went for 21 points and three assists without a turnover at No. 1 Kentucky rolled over South Florida. The big question: How bad is Tyler Ulis’ elbow injury?
  • Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart both had 13 points as No. 8 Villanova knocked off Georgia Tech to win the Preseason NIT, 69-52.
  • No. 23 Xavier raced out of the gates against USC and led by as much as 32, going on to win 87-77 in Orlando. Trevon Bluiett led four Musketeers in double figures with 16 points and James Farr added 12 to go along with nine rebounds off the bench.


  • Stanford finished third at the Preseason NIT with a 69-66 win over Arkansas, closing the game on a stunning 21-1 run. Rosco Allen scored eight of his career-high 25 points during that run, and Marcus Allen’s goal-tended layup with 2.6 seconds remaining gave the Cardinal the lead for good.

Good luck Goodluck: UNLV’s Okonoboh to transfer

Goodluck Okonoboh
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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UNLV sophomore Goodluck Okonoboh is transferring out of the program, a source told NBCSports.com.

The 6-foot-10 center was the No. 31 recruit in the Class of 2014, but he never was able to find a place in the UNLV rotation. He averaged 2.9 blocks as a freshman, but is a career 34 percent free throw shooter that never proved he could be more than just an athlete.

With Ben Carter getting eligible and UNLV landing Stephen Zimmerman this season, Okonoboh’s minutes dried up. He played just 19 minutes total against UCLA and Indiana.