Separated by only six miles, Manhattan and Iona have the most intense rivalry in the MAAC. Dating back to 1997, 17 of their 30 meetings have been decided by a single-digit margin.
During the early and mid-2000s, the Gaels and the Jaspers were consistently two of the premier programs in the MAAC. From 2000-2006, they combined for five NCAA tournament berths.
Since then, both programs have been trying to rebuild back to the top of the conference.
Iona is already well on its way to becoming a premier mid-major once again. After going to the 2011 CIT Championship game, the Gaels were picked to finish No. 1 in the MAAC in 2011-12. So far, they have not disappointed, going 13-3, 5-0 in the MAAC.
However, Manhattan is a step behind. But after finishing with only six wins last season, the Jaspers have already won 10 games this season under new head coach Steve Masiello, currently sitting in third place in the MAAC.
Iona will be playing for its first 6-0 start since the 1995-96 season, while Manhattan looks for its second straight win over one of the top teams in the MAAC. Here is what both teams will have to do in order to be successful tonight.
Keys for Manhattan
Knock down the three-ball
Manhattan has lived and died by the three-point shot in many games this year.
The Jaspers are No. 4 in the MAAC at 35.7 percent, and they are No. 3 in three-pointers made. When making fewer than six treys in a game, they have scored more than 65 points only two times.
Against a high-powered offense like Iona's, Manhattan will need many more than 65 points just to stay close.
The Jaspers have three potentially deadly shooters in George Beamon, Kidani Brutus, and Liam McCabe-Moran, and all three will need to be on their game.
No foul trouble in the frontcourt
Iona's frontcourt is obviously more talented than Manhattan's.
The Gaels have possibly the best mid-major big man in senior Michael Glover, a candidate for mid-major player of the year.
Although he is overshadowed by Glover, junior Taaj Ridley is also having a solid season with 8.3 points per game and 4.3 rebounds per game.
Rhamel Brown and Roberto Colonette anchor the Manhattan frontcourt.
Both Manhattan big men are undersized, although they have put up some solid numbers despite their disadvantage.
However, another disadvantage is that both Brown and Colonette are foul-prone, and Manhattan does not have great depth in the frontcourt.
Keys for Iona
Break apart Manhattan's press
Manhattan's full-court press often works well, but multiple teams have found holes in the pressure defense.
Iona has a number of good ballhandlers, starting with Scott Machado and Arizona transfer Lamont Jones, so it should be able to find some success against the press.
Put pressure on Manhattan
Although the Jaspers' ball control has been improving, they still have major troubles taking care of the ball. This year, Manhattan is averaging 17 turnovers per game.
In the first half of its most recent game against Fairfield, Manhattan turned over the ball 13 times in the first half alone.
Iona's full-court pressure and hectic style could lead to some easy, transition buckets off turnovers.
What will be the result of Thursday's game?
Stats you should know:
- This will be the first time that Iona and Manhattan play with both teams having winning records since the final game of the 2005-06 season, when the Jaspers defeated Iona, 78-74, to win a regular-season MAAC championship.
- Machado leads the nation in assists with 10.1 assists per game, and Glover is No. 2 in the MAAC in scoring with 19 points per game.
- Beamon has scored in double digits in every game since Jan. 15, 2011. He is averaging 17.5 points per game in his last six games.
- Brown is No. 4 in career blocks at Manhattan with 110. He sits 29 blocks behind Jamal Marshall.
My pick: Manhattan is clearly a program on the rise, but the Jaspers are not yet ready to take down a premier mid-major
The Gaels inconsistent defense should allow Manhattan to stay relatively close, but they will ultimately win this one with some breathing room.
Iona 87, Manhattan 72
Tip-Off: Thursday, Jan. 12, 7:00 PM at Hynes Athletics Center