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.
“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.
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