New York Colleges: Iona

Iona, Manhattan in MAAC title game

March, 10, 2013
New York college basketball fans will have at least one team to root for in the 2013 NCAA tournament.

Iona and Manhattan both advanced to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship game, courtesy of wins on Sunday.

Iona (19-13, 11-7), the No. 4 seed, defeated No. 1 seed Niagra 79-73. Manhattan (14-17, 9-9), the No. 6 seed, defeated No. 7 seed Fairfield 60-42.

The championship game will be Monday night at 9 p.m. in Springfield, Mass., and will air on ESPN2.

These two arch-rivals, with campuses approximately nine miles apart, have never met in the conference championship game before.

Iona, Manhattan

Rutgers hangs on, tops Iona at MSG

December, 9, 2012
Myles MackAnthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY SportsRutgers guard Myles Mack drives through the lane for the score against Iona on Saturday night.

Something crazy almost happened at Madison Square Garden late Saturday night.

Rutgers, with a 22-point lead midway through the second half, almost blew a game against Iona. But the Scarlet Knights held on to win, 81-73, in the nightcap of the MSG Holiday Festival.

“Well, that was fun,” said Rutgers coach Mike Rice to open his postgame news conference, the sarcasm practically dripping off his lips.

The Scarlet Knights led 35-23 at halftime, and expanded that lead to 66-44 with 10:32 remaining in the game. That’s when the Gaels made their move, launching a furious rally to get within one point, 70-69, with 2:35 left.

In fact, Iona had a great chance to take the lead on its next possession, but Rutgers forward Wally Judge had a brilliant block on a lay-up attempt by Iona’s Taaj Ridley. That ignited a Scarlet Knights fast break, capped off by a Myles Mack layup. The Gaels never got over the hump.

“We told them in every timeout, they’re not going away. They’re gonna push,” Rice said. “We certainly bent, but didn’t break.”

Both Rice and his players agreed that Rutgers made a big mistake by trying to run with Iona in the final minutes. The result? Twenty-five Scarlet Knight turnovers.

“We started playing like they played, and I think that was bad for us,” said Mack, who had a team-high 19 points.

“They’re a good basketball team,” said Rice, of Iona. “They’re a great offensive basketball team.”

Yes, Iona can score -- the Gaels were ranked 25th in the country in scoring, at 79.5 points per game. But they couldn’t outscore Rutgers, which shot the ball well from the field (30-for-62, 48.4 percent) and outrebounded Iona 47-29 (17-9 on the offensive glass).

“They wore us down a little bit on the inside,” said Iona coach Tim Cluess. “We don’t have those kind of horses that they have in there.”

“But I’m really, really proud of my team for how hard they fought to get back in this game,” added Cluess. “They could have laid down and died, and they gave it everything they could.”

Rutgers, picked to finish 11th in the Big East this season, is now 5-2 on the young season.

“Consistency, not getting in your own way, is a general theme with this team,” said Rice. “If they just make simple plays, and share the game, I think this team can be very good.”

Iona, which was picked to finish third in the MAAC, dropped to 3-4.

“We’ll add a nice 6-8, 240-pound piece in a week and a half that’s going to help us a lot,” said Cluess, referring to David Laury, who will become eligible later this month. “I like our future with this group.”

The Gaels are coming off an at-large NCAA tournament bid last spring. When asked about making the tournament this season after the game, junior guard Sean Armand boldy said, “We’re gonna make the tournament.”

Senior guard Momo Jones, who scored a game-high 26 on Saturday, had a different perspective.

“The tournament is what, four months away?” Jones said. “We’re not worried about that. We’re worried about getting better, every day.”

Only time will tell, for both these teams.

Iona dances again in Bracketology

April, 16, 2012
ESPN's resident bracketologist, Joe Lunardi, released his first bracket projection for the 2013 NCAA tournament on Monday.

One local school is in the current projected field of 68 -- Iona.

Hopefully the Gaels will have licked their wounds by then, after their epic collapse against BYU in this year's Big Dance.

Click here to see the full bracket.

Rapid Reaction: BYU 78, Iona 72

March, 14, 2012

Recap | Box score

WHAT IT MEANS: This one will hurt for a long, long time.

Iona led BYU by as many as 25 points in the first half of their NCAA tournament first-round game Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio. The Gaels came out scorching the nets, scoring 55 points in just the first 15 minutes and change. But they only scored 17 points over the last 24:34 of the game as BYU rallied and stunned Iona, winning 78-72.

Simply put, it is the biggest comeback in NCAA tournament history.

TURNING POINT: With the score 13-10 Iona in the early going, the Gaels erupted on a 15-0 run to make it 28-10 less than midway through the first half. BYU cut it to 28-17, but then Iona exploded again, taking a 49-24 lead with 6:12 left before the break. Then the Cougars ended the half on a 9-0 run to make it 55-40 at intermission.

The second half was a whole 'nother story. Iona never got its mojo back offensively, stymied by BYU's zone defense. At one point the Gaels went more than nine minutes without a point. The Cougars got the deficit all the way down to one on two occasions without getting over the hump, and then finally took the lead on a Noah Hartsock trey with 2:28 remaining. BYU closed it out from there.

KEY PLAYER: Hartsock had a game-high 23 points for BYU, making 10 of his 14 shots from the field. Brandon Davies chipped in 18.

Scott Machado had 15 points and 10 assists in his final game for Iona -- but 12 of his 15 points and nine of his 10 assists came in the first half.

KEY STAT: Iona was on fire early in this game, but finished just 6-for-25 from 3-point range, and the Gaels rely heavily on perimeter shooting.

WHAT'S NEXT: BYU will enter the NCAA tournament's West bracket as the No. 14 seed, and play No. 3 seed Marquette on Thursday afternoon in Louisville, Ky.

Iona finishes the season with a record of 25-8.

Video: Lunardi previews Iona

March, 13, 2012

Iona overjoyed at surprise NCAA bid

March, 11, 2012

The Iona men's basketball players and coaches were so nervous about Sunday's NCAA tournament selection show, they didn't even watch it together.

The team finished practice at about 5 p.m., an hour before the show began. The players went to eat together at a nearby restaurant, while the coaches went someplace else to eat. "We didn't wanna jinx ourselves and be all together, thinking that we should get in, and then have a disappointment," said Iona coach Tim Cluess.

When Iona's name appeared on the TV screen, things started happening quickly. "As soon as we all found out, we called each other and came running right back to school and all met up here," said Cluess. "And we're enjoying it right now."

Cluess was speaking on a conference call with reporters about a half-hour after the selection show ended. The Gaels (25-7, 15-3 MAAC) -- the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season champions, who were upset in the semifinals of their conference tournament -- were one of the biggest surprises in the field of 68.

Prior to this year, the MAAC conference has only received one at-large bid in its history -- Manhattan in 1995.

Iona was one of the last four teams to make the NCAA field, so the Gaels will have to play a play-in game, Tuesday at approximately 9:10 p.m. ET in Dayton, Ohio, against BYU. The winner will be the No. 14 seed in the West region, and play No. 3 seed Marquette on Thursday in Louisville, Ky.

This is Iona's first bid to the NCAA tournament since 2006.

"We were hopeful -- I knew we’d be in an on-the-bubble situation, so we weren’t sitting there thinking we were in," said Cluess. "We were probably saying, 'Well, with all these teams out there it's gonna be a tough decision for the selection committee. But we remained hopeful and we got in. We're just extremely excited -- we wouldn't say surprised, just more thrilled."

"I think a lot of my teammates were nervous, but being there last year, I kind of knew how a lot of things worked, and what to expect," said Iona junior guard Lamont "Momo" Jones, who played in the NCAA tournament with Arizona last year before transferring.

"And looking at the RPIs and the strength of schedule and what we did this year, I was pretty confident that we were gonna make it. I just had to keep telling my team, we're gonna make it, you just gotta have faith."

Iona did have a good final RPI rating, 42. The Gaels went 0-2 against teams in the Top 50 in the RPI, but were 5-1 against teams ranked from 51 to 100. And they went 6-2 during a very difficult December road stretch -- Iona played eight games that month, all away from home.

"I knew that our out-of-conference strength of schedule, our out-of-conference RPI, our overall RPI, the fact that we played so many road games -- we had a lot of things going in our favor that would give us a chance," said Cluess. "I also knew that there were a ton of tremendous teams that you were looking at."

Iona's opponent, BYU (25-8, 12-4 WCC), finished in third place in its first year in the West Coast Conference, behind St. Mary's and Gonzaga.

"I don't know a lot about them right now -- I know they're a very good basketball team," said Cluess. "We're gonna get as much information as we can on them; that's what we're doing right now. My assistant coaches are hard at work on that, and we're looking forward to the challenge."

The coaches and players are on the same page, or in the same place, on that one.

"We're very thankful that we got in, and we're very excited, and we're very hyped to play," said senior point guard Scott Machado. "All my teammates are like, 'We wanna practice right now!' Everybody's just excited and ready to go. We definitely wanna make a run, but it’s gonna be one game at a time."

Rapid Reaction: LIU, Iona make Big Dance

March, 11, 2012
Brackets: PDF | GIF

Some quick thoughts following the NCAA tournament selection show:

BIG SURPRISE! Iona -- the regular season champ in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, which was upset in the semifinals of the MAAC tournament -- made the field of 68, which few people expected coming into the day.

The Gaels (25-7, 15-3 MAAC) were one of the final four teams to receive an at-large bid, which means they have to play a play-in game on Tuesday, which will tip off at approximately 8:30 p.m. ET. Iona will play BYU (25-8), which finished in third place in the West Coast Conference at 12-4, behind St. Mary's and Gonzaga.

The winner will be a No. 14 seed, and will face No. 3 seed Marquette on Thursday in Louisville, Ky., as part of the West bracket.

SMALL DISAPPOINTMENT: LIU Brooklyn, the regular season and tournament champion of the Northeast Conference, was the only local team guaranteed to be in the field coming into the day.

LIU received the No. 16 seed in the West bracket and will play No. 1 seed Michigan State in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday. The Blackbirds, who were a No. 15 seed a year ago, are thrilled to be back in the Big Dance, but they thought they deserved a higher seed (more to come later tonight).

The Spartans (27-7, 13-5 Big Ten) tied for first in the Big Ten during the regular season, and beat Ohio State to win the Big Ten tournament on Sunday.

BIGGER DISAPPOINTMENT: Seton Hall (20-12, 8-10 Big East), the other local team that was on the bubble heading into the day, was left out of the field entirely.'s final edition of Bracketology had Seton Hall as the last team in the field, and Iona being left out -- but the selection committee obviously saw things differently.

We'll have reaction from Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard later tonight as well.

W2W4: Selection Sunday

March, 11, 2012
Here are three things to watch for on Selection Sunday, for all you local college basketball fans out there.

The official NCAA tournament selection show begins at 6 p.m. ET, and will air on CBS.

FLY, BLACKBIRDS, FLY: LIU Brooklyn, your Northeast Conference champions, are the only New York-area team that's definitely going dancing. Now it's just a matter of, where are they headed?

The latest Bracketology projection has LIU as a No. 15 seed in the West region, playing No. 2 seed Kansas in Omaha, Nebraska.

I will be watching the selection show with the Blackbirds on campus, and will have a postgame reaction story plus video from the event later tonight.

ON THE EDGE OF THEIR SEATS: Seton Hall and Iona are our two bubble teams -- both have a chance to be in the field of 68, but it could go either way.

The Pirates are currently the second-to-last team in the field, according to the ESPN bracket. They would be a No. 12 seed in the East, and have to play a play-in game versus BYU in Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday or Wednesday.

The Gaels are currently the second team among the first four out -- they appear to be in the more precarious position, and would likely have to play a play-in game as well.

DON'T FORGET: The NIT bracket will also be revealed tonight, at 9 p.m. on ESPNU. Iona will definitely be in the NIT field if it doesn't make the NCAA tournament, because it won the MAAC regular season championship.

Seton Hall will likely be in the NIT as well, if it fails to make the Big Dance. Also, Stony Brook -- the America East regular season champions, who lost their conference championship game to Vermont on Saturday -- will definitely be in the NIT field. And Wagner -- which went 25-6 this season, finishing second to LIU Brooklyn in the NEC -- also could make the NIT.

Machado a finalist for Wooden Award

March, 6, 2012
Iona senior point guard Scott Machado, who led the nation in assists per game this season, is one of 16 finalists for the John R. Wooden Award -- a great achievement, particularly for a player at a mid-major school.

(Although I'm sure he would trade it for an NCAA tournament bid for his Gaels, who were upset in the MAAC semifinals two days ago, and are probably headed to the NIT.)

Click here to read more.

Bracketology -- the latest update

March, 5, 2012
In the Monday morning update of's Bracketology, Seton Hall is the third-to-last team in the field -- and Iona is on the outside looking in.

The Pirates, a No. 12 seed, are matched up with Xavier in one of the four play-in games, as of now.

Stony Brook -- the America East regular season champs, who will host their conference title game on Saturday -- are also in a play-in game as a No. 16 seed, versus Savannah State.

LIU Brooklyn -- the Northeast Conference regular season champs, who will host their conference title game on Wednesday -- are also a No. 16 seed, and scheduled for a rematch with North Carolina, the team the Blackbirds faced in last year's NCAA tournament.

As for Iona? The Gaels are listed as the sixth team on the outside of the bracket.

Click here to see the entire bracket.

LIU survives on a wild day for NY hoops

March, 4, 2012
BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- As much fun as March is, it can be cruel, too.

On Sunday morning, four New York college hoops teams were preparing to play conference tournament semifinal games. All four were favored -- three regular season conference champs (Iona, Stony Brook, LIU Brooklyn) and a runner-up (Wagner). All had their sights set squarely on the NCAA tournament.

In the span of eight hours, two of the four had their dreams snuffed out. The other two survived, by the skin of their teeth.

LIU was one of the fortunate ones. The Blackbirds came from eight points behind with less than eight minutes remaining to sneak past Quinnipiac, 78-75, and advance to the Northeast Conference championship game.

“I thought our guys showed unbelievable character, played with fantastic poise,” said LIU coach Jim Ferry. “I’m just proud to be the coach of these guys, [with] the fortitude that they showed tonight.”

LIU (24-6) had only lost two conference games all year, and had swept a pair of games from Quinnipiac in the regular season. But the Bobcats gave the Blackbirds everything they could handle the third time around, coming from 10 points down late in the first half to take a 65-57 lead with 7:35 left.

With all the momentum going the other way, LIU responded with a 16-4 run from there, with 14 of the 16 points coming from NEC Player of the Year Julian Boyd (21 points, nine rebounds) and point guard Jason Brickman (18 points, five assists).

The Blackbirds, who won the NEC tournament and went to the Big Dance a year ago, said the experience they gained last season has paid big dividends.” I feel like that experience has helped us throughout this season,” said forward Jamal Olasewere (13 points, seven rebounds). “It keeps us poised in situations.”

“I can say that in the huddles and the timeouts, there was no nervousness, there was no anxiety,” added Ferry. “They really all kept their poise and just kept talking about getting stops.”

“I thought LIU made a ton of poised plays and tough plays during their run, and we got a little skittery on the offensive end during that stretch,” said Quinnipiac coach Tom Moore. “They played like you expect a defending champion to play on their home court in the last eight minutes, and we didn’t make enough plays to match how good they were. We were probably two plays short.”

Now LIU is one win away from back-to-back trips to college basketball's promised land. On Wednesday evening, they’ll host the NEC championship game -- a rematch of last year’s thriller between the Blackbirds and Robert Morris, a game LIU won in overtime, 85-82.

In their only meeting of this season, Robert Morris knocked off LIU in Pennsylvania, 75-66.

“It is gonna take exactly what we had to do today to win that basketball game,” said Ferry. “We need to play with great poise, we need to trust each other, we need to play better than we did at Robert Morris -- they outplayed us at their place.

“They’re going to the conference championship game for the fourth time in a row -- they’ve been there, they know what it’s about, and it doesn’t surprise me that they’re there again. So I think it’s gonna be a very difficult challenge for us.”

The reason Robert Morris, the NEC's No. 3 seed, is back there again this season is that they upset Wagner in Staten Island earlier Sunday, 71-64.

Danny Hurley’s Seahawks set a new school record for wins with 25 this year, earning the No. 2 seed in the NEC. But it all comes down to the conference tournament in college basketball, as we all know.

Iona feels Wagner’s pain, and then some. The Gaels, the regular season champs in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and also a 25-game winner, got picked off by No. 4 seed Fairfield on Sunday afternoon, 85-75. One bad day at the end of a wonderful season will likely send Iona to the NIT.

Cruel, indeed.

But for every heartbreaking story this month, there seems to be a heartwarmer as well. Stony Brook, the America East regular season champs, looking to make the Big Dance for the very first time in school history, was tied with No. 4 seed Albany in the final seconds of their game Sunday afternoon. That’s when forward Dallis Joyner tipped in a rebound at the buzzer to send the Seawolves within one victory of their first-ever bid.

Stony Brook will host the America East championship game, next Saturday at 11 a.m.

Iona and Wagner got more attention this season -- Iona because of its NBA prospects, Wagner because of its coach’s last name.

But LIU Brooklyn and Stony Brook are the two locals left standing.

Are we in for more heartwarming? Or more heartbreak?

Tune in Wednesday night, and Saturday morning.

Down goes Iona in the MAAC semis

March, 4, 2012

Just a couple of hours after Wagner was upset in the Northeast Conference semifinals, Iona -- the regular season champs in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference -- suffered a stunning defeat to No. 4 seed Fairfield in the MAAC semifinals, 85-75.

Iona had beaten Fairfield twice in the regular season, including clinching the MAAC title with a win over the Stags nine days ago in New Rochelle. And Fairfield was without starting point guard and second-leading scorer Derek Needham, who is out for the rest of the season after breaking a bone in his left foot in that previous Iona game.

Scott Machado, the nation's leader in assists, had 24 points and seven assists for Iona. Mike Glover, another All-MAAC first-teamer, had 19 points and eight rebounds, and Momo Jones chipped in 16 points. But Glover shot just 9-for-18 from the foul line, Iona got little help from its supporting cast, and Fairfield shot 31-for-52 from the field (59.6 percent).

This is the second straight season Iona has suffered a heartbreaking defeat in the MAAC tourney. Last year, as the No. seed, the Gaels were upset by No. 4 seed St. Pete's in the championship game.

Iona coach Tim Cluess said after the game that he thinks his team is deserving of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, with a record of 25-7 and an RPI rating of 39 entering play on Sunday. But the Gaels have just one win against teams in the top 50 in the RPI (Nevada).

The more likely destination is the NIT -- Iona is guaranteed a bid there, as the conference regular season champion.

Your Sunday tourney viewing guide

March, 4, 2012
March Madness has officially arrived, and four local mid-majors are still in the running for a bid to the Big Dance.

All four are in action on Sunday, playing in their conference tournament semifinals -- here's the list:

* Wagner, the No. 2 seed in the NEC, hosts No. 3 seed Robert Morris at noon -- you can watch the game on MSG.

* Iona, the top seed in the MAAC, plays No. 4 seed Fairfield in Springfield, Mass., at 2 p.m. -- you can watch the game via ESPN3.

* Stony Brook, the top seed in the America East, plays No. 4 seed Albany in West Hartford, Conn., at 5 p.m. -- you can watch the game via ESPN3.

* LIU Brooklyn, the top seed in the NEC, hosts No. 5 seed Quinnipiac at 6 p.m. -- you can watch the game on MSG.

Iona wins, Manhattan upset in MAAC

March, 4, 2012

Iona, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season champs, had little trouble with Marist in the MAAC tournament quarterfinals on Saturday, winning 87-63.

The Gaels led just 35-33 at halftime, but overwhelmed the Red Foxes in the second half. Mike Glover had 29 points and seven rebounds for Iona, who will play No. 4 seed Fairfield on Sunday at 2 p.m.

Manhattan, on the other hand, was upset by No. 6 seed Siena, 84-82 in overtime. George Beamon had 24 points in a losing effort.

While they were hoping to go much farther in the MAAC tournament, this has been a tremendous season for the Jaspers and their first-year coach, Steve Masiello. Manhattan, after going 6-25 a year ago, is now 20-12. Fourteen more wins -- that's the biggest turnaround in Division I this season.

We'll have to wait and see if Manhattan gets an invite to any of the postseason tournaments. The Jaspers might not be done yet.

Machado named MAAC Player of Year

March, 2, 2012
Iona point guard Scott Machado has been named the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference's Player of the Year.

The 6-foot-1 senior from Queens leads the nation in assists, at 10.1 per game. He is also averaging 13.1 points and 5 rebounds per game.

Machado was joined on the All-MAAC first team by fellow senior Mike Glover, who is averaging 18.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Off-guard Momo Jones (16.2 ppg) made the All-MAAC second team.

The Gaels (24-6, 15-3 MAAC), the top seed in the MAAC tournament, will play their quarterfinal game at 4:30 p.m. Saturday against either Marist or St. Peter's.