Iona: 2017 March Madness

Conference: MAAC (Automatic Bid)

Record: 22-12 (12-8 MAAC)

NCAA Tournament Seed: 14 (Midwest)

How they got to the Big Dance

Although it was the No. 3 seed in the MAAC tournament, Iona ran the table and won three games in three days to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. After a come-from-behind victory in the semifinal over Saint Peter’s, the Gaels won a thrilling overtime game against Siena. A go-ahead layup with under 30 seconds to play propelled the Gaels to their second straight MAAC championship.

Why they’re a legitimate contender

Whichever team Iona plays will have the challenge of slowing down one of the most prolific offenses in college hoops. Its 80.5 points per game ranked second in the MAAC and in the top-30 in the NCAA. The Gaels were also 18th in the country in 3-point attempts per game and had four players on their roster who made at least 50 3-pointers this season.

Iona’s up-tempo offense has put up 61.5 shots per game, the 36th most in the nation. It does so despite grabbing only 9.6 offensive rebounds per game, proving that its shot-taking mentality can be attributed to the pace at which it plays.

Why they’re not a legitimate contender

On the flip side, Iona’s defense is not up to par with its offense. The Gaels allow 76.4 points per game, and allow their opponents to dominate the glass. Opposing sides grab 38.2 total rebounds per game.  

Additionally, the Gaels have struggled against top teams, winning just one of their six games against top 100 teams according to CBS Sports’ RPI. Iona won a neutral site meeting with Nevada in November, but avoided top-seeded Monmouth in the MAAC championship after the Hawks were upset by Siena in the semifinal.

Player to watch: Forward Jordan Washington

If the Gaels want to pull off an upset in the NCAA tournament, they will need their 6-foot-8 senior to stay out of foul trouble and contribute offensively. Washington leads the team in points per game (17.9), rebounds per game (7.4) and field goal percentage (55.1 percent). The unanimous all-MAAC First Team selection guided the team offensively in the conference tournament, scoring 59 points in three games. He was even efficient from the free throw line, knocking down 15 of his 18 attempts.

However, Washington’s biggest flaw was also revealed in the tournament: he often is in foul trouble. Washington has only committed two or fewer fouls in a game three times this season and commits 3.47 fouls per game.