Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Iona (17-10, 11-5 MAAC) has won four straight games. The Gaels stand at second place in the MAAC. This BracketBuster will be the Gaels' third game in a four-game road trip.
Liberty (19-9, 13-3 Big South) was eliminated from a Big South regular season title, but the Flames are still confident in their ability to defeat Coastal Carolina and go the Big Dance. This game will be tough for Iona, considering that Liberty has only lost twice at home this season, with both losses coming to powerful mid-major programs (George Mason and Coastal Carolina).
Keys for Iona
Go to Glover.
Mike Glover is the best player in the MAAC. The former Big East recruit can overpower most mid-major players and can sometimes score at will in the post. He has to be Iona's first option on offense.
Work for the open three.
When Iona's shooters are open from beyond the arc, they rarely miss. I got to see the downside of that when Iona made 16 three-pointers against my Manhattan Jaspers on Wednesday. Although the Gaels have some good three-point shooters, they should not just be running and gunning. They have to run an offense to work for the open three-point shots.
Keys for Liberty
Rebound the basketball.
Liberty is one of the better rebounding teams in the nation. Just about all of the main players on the team put up solid rebounding numbers. Iona has a pair of somewhat dominant rebounders in Glover and Alejo Rodriguez. The Flames will have to work hard to keep these two off the glass, but they have the ability to do it.
Most of Liberty's scoring comes from four players. The Flames have four players who 11 PPG or more. Out of their teams' 69 PPG, Evan Gordon, John Brown, Jesse Sanders, and David Minaya combine for over 48 PPG.
Defend the perimeter.
On the flip side of Iona needing to get open looks from three-point range, Liberty has to prevent that from happening. If Iona is defended beyond the arc, the Gaels offense will be forced to come from the paint. In past games, Iona has had some trouble scoring when not hitting three-pointers.
Players to watch for:
For Iona, I am going with a pair of players—juniors Scott Machado and Michael Glover. Both Machado and Glover are potent players in the MAAC. Machado leads the MAAC in assists and is No. 2 in the nation, .1 APG behind UAB's Aaron Johnson. Glover led the MAAC in scoring for just about all of the season before dropping into the No. 2 slot, .1 PPG behind Siena'a Ryan Rossiter, after a nine-point performance against Manhattan this week.
Not only are these two fun to watch individually, but they work great together as distributor and scorer.
Sophomore John Brown does not lead Liberty in scoring, but he is still one of the Flames' better players. The transfer from Citadel is averaging a double-double with 11.6 PPG and 10.8 RPG, leading the conference in rebounding. He has posted 14 double-doubles this season.
My pick: Iona by six