NCAA Tournament 2012: It Turns out Iona Wasn't This Year's VCU

Ron PasceriCorrespondent IIMarch 14, 2012

DAYTON, OH - MARCH 13:  Scott Machado #3 of the Iona Gaels drives on Craig Cusick #2 of the Brigham Young Cougars in the second half in the first round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at UD Arena on March 13, 2012 in Dayton, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

There were a lot of teams on the edge of the bubble on Sunday.  Many thought St. Bonaventure's win in the Atlantic 10 tournament stole a bid from an at-large team.

Most thought the Iona Gaels would be on the outside looking in.  After the selection committee had their say, the Gaels were part of the First Four, just like Virginia Commonwealth last year.  Could they be the team that no one wanted but couldn't get rid of?

From the outset, Iona showed that they were not VCU.  Point guard Scott Machado had the Gaels off to the races.  VCU topped USC 59-46 in the first-round last year.  Iona was not grinding it out.  It was running away with it.

Brigham Young had no answers on offense or defense as Iona blew through them, leading 55-31 with 4:34 remaining in the first half.  

For 15 minutes and 26 seconds, Iona looked unstoppable.  The 55 points were compiled on 24-of-35 shooting, an astounding 68.6 percent from the field.  They were crisp moving the ball, with 14 assists against zero turnovers to that point.

Iona was all over the place, with four players on the floor who could handle the ball, get into the lane and knock down a jumper at all times.  This was not VCU, this was even better.

The thing is, from that point on, things changed.  A lot.

Over the course of the final 24 minutes and 34 seconds, the Gaels managed to score just 17 more points.  On pace for over 140 points, Iona managed only slightly more than half that total, losing 78-72. 

After a blistering start, Iona made just seven of their final 35 shots, turning the ball over 17 times against just five assists.

It's hard to figure what happened at this point.  Did they wear themselves out?  Did they foolishly try to sit on the lead and bleed the clock?  Were they already thinking about Marquette in the next round?

Whatever it was, they definitely stopped playing their game.  They played a slow and sloppy style that simply didn't suit them.

Machado showed what a good point guard he is by scoring 15 points and dishing out 10 assists. Unfortunately, Iona showed that it is not this year's VCU, dropping out before the real field even started to play.

As a team, Iona showed why it belonged, but, ultimately, it looked like the Gaels didn't. Congratulations to the BYU Cougars for coming back from 25 points down.

Marquette is eagerly waiting, and BYU is excited to have survived such a first-half barrage.