Iona’s basketball team—players and coaches—are restless. Some are standing up, some are stretching and some are changing their seats. It was like trying to keep the shook soda bottle from exploding.
The 2013 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champions were watching Selection Sunday from the Hynes Center at Iona College, and they just saw three regions worth of matchups announced without their name being called.
Until, finally, the cap on the soda exploded.
The No. 15-seed Iona College Gaels (20-13) were called, drawing the No. 2-seed Ohio State (26-7) in Dayton, Ohio this Friday.
Iona head coach Tim Cluess said of the suspense, “It felt like the end of the game waiting for the clock to run out.”
To say that Iona College will be an underdog against Ohio State is an understatement. But junior guard and the MAAC’s seventh-leading scorer Sean Armand was confident the Gaels will pull out the upset win.
“I’m not worried about nothin’,” Armand said. “I’m just ready to play.”
The Gaels had a tough stretch in Feb., losing six of seven games between Jan. 31 and Feb. 23, but the Gaels rebounded in March, winning all five games.
Cluess said that must-win atmosphere Iona played with in March will help them in Dayton on Friday.
“We’ve been in a situation where you have to win to keep playing, and I think that’s been great that we have those kind of games.” said Cluess. “They were all close games, and that will get them ready for [the tournament].”
All year long, Iona has been an offensive team, averaging a conference-leading 80 points per game, but recently its defense has stepped up. It has held opponents to under 70 points in four of the last seven games, including the MAAC championship game, where it held Manhattan to 57.
Cluess said the improvement on defense was a direct result of his team getting healthy, and it’s the defense that separates this year’s team from last year’s team, which lost to BYU 78-72 in the first round of the tournament after leading by 25.
“Last year’s team was more talented, but this year’s team finds a way and has a will on the defensive end,” Cluess said. “We’re a better overall defensive team.”
All quotes, information and multimedia were obtained firsthand.