SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — David Laury didn’t answer a single question or offer a single comment during the postgame press conference after Iona defeated Manhattan 60-57 to capture the MAAC Championship and secure an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. Yet, as the 6-foot-8 Iona forward walked back to the locker room across the MassMutual Center floor he broke his silence and let out a, “woooo” as he passed the benched and headed into the tunnel.
As No. 4 Iona began dancing, it was the polar opposite for No. 6 Manhattan. Believe it or not, the Jaspers, who scored 34 points in a win 11 days ago, don’t have a resume worthy of an at-large bid like Iona was last year after being upset by Fairfield in the semifinals.
The two different emotions show why for all the talent that fills the power conferences, tournaments like the MAAC mean so much more, win it or it’s over. The Gaels entered a deep conference tournament and in three games in consecutive nights by a total of 13 points.
“I said at the beginning of the season we’re going to make the tournament the right way,” junior guard Sean Armand said. “We got an at-large bid because of our hard work, but this year I told the guys I really want to make it because we earned that spot.”
MoMo Jones, Iona’s leading scorer, has now been apart of three straight NCAA tournament teams, dating back to 2011 when he played with Arizona.
“I mean, honestly, making the tournament is making the tournament is making the tournament,” Jones said. “I’m serious. I don’t think there is a different feeling, I think there’s more too it, being that we’re coming out representing this conference. Last year, we we’re representing the conference, but it was more so Loyola (Md.) because they won the conference championship.”
This time last year, Iona had to sweat it out on Selection Sunday and luckily heard its named called. Usually that isn’t the case, in fact, the Gaels may not have been selected at all if it wasn’t for the addition of the First Four, expanding the field to 68 teams.
Jones can down play the feeling of punching their ticket to the dance, saying its no different than getting an at-large bid, but as he made his way back to the locker room he couldn’t help but bask in his accomplishment. As several Iona coaches stood in the hallway, chatting and smiling, Jones came back out from the locker room and shouted for them to come int and celebrate.
The feeling is definitely different this time around for the Gaels, instead of dreading Selection Sunday, they get to kickback and relax while 67 other teams have their names called.