Introducing Cinderella: The Iona Gaels are headed to the NCAA tournament

Photo by Sean Haffey/Getty Images
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Conference: Metro Atlantic Athletic

Coach: Tim Cluess

Record: 22-12 (12-8 T-3)

Ratings and Rankings:

Kenpom: 119
RPI: 100
AP/USA Today: N/A

Seeding: With an RPI hovering around the triple-digits, look for the Gaels to be seeded 14th or 15th.

Names you need to know: Jordan Washington has helped fill the void left play star A.J. English, by putting up 17.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. He’s shooting better than 50 percent from the field and gets to the line a ton. Jon Severe is the Gaels’ sharpshooter, converting 43.9 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. Sam Cassell, Jr. and Rickey McGill are both double-figure scorers.

Stats you need to know: Few teams center their offense around a player like Iona does around Washington. He’s scored more than a fifth of the team’s overall points and shoots 36.1 percent of the team’s shots when he’s on the floor, which ranks fifth in the country, per KenPom.

Big wins, bad losses: The Gaels bested Nevada on a neutral in November, but were bested by Delaware, Fairfield, Quinnipiac and Rider, who all are slotted outside the KenPom 200.

How’d they get here?: Iona rolled Rider in its first postseason game and then outlasted Saint Peter’s in the semis. The Gaels avoided MAAC top seed Monmouth after the Hawks lost to four-seed Siena. The title game was a classic with both Iona and Siena trading big shot after big shot before the Gaels came out on top in overtime, 87-86.

Outlook: This Gaels team doesn’t feel as dangerous as last year’s team that was a trendy upset pick that ultimately couldn’t escape the first round, but they do have a go-to player in Washington and a supporting cast capable of getting buckets. It’s hard to escape the 14 or 15 line, but Iona’s got some chops and Tim Cluess is coaching in his fourth NCAA tournament.

How do I know you?: The Gales were the team last year that denied the Monmouth bench mob from an NCAA tournament experience, besting the Hawks, 79-76, to earn their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2013.