School: Iona College
Location: New Rochelle, NY (20 miles north of Manhattan)
School Type: Private
Student Population: 3,189 total
Stadium: Hynes Athletic Center
Head Coach: Tim Cluess
Experience: 2nd year
First, a little background on Friday’s opponent. Let’s begin the travelogue..
Iona College opened its doors in 1940, with nine Christian Brothers and six lay faculty greeting the first class. The Christian Brothers named the College after Iona, the island monastery of St. Columba (in Irish: St. Colmcille) located off the west coast of Scotland. Columba founded the monastery in 563 AD. The Congregation of Christian Brothers was itself founded in 1802 by Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice in Waterford, Ireland.
Iona got into the NCAA’s by virtue of winning their conference tournament. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) is comprised of; Canisius College, Fairfield, Loyola (MD), Manhattan, Marist, Niagara, Rider, St. Peter’s and Sienna. Think of it as the Catholic 7 Lite. In the interest of full disclosure, and trivia, I received my graduate degree from Canisius, am pretty familiar with Niagara University, and vaguely aware of the other schools.
Back to basketball. The Gaels (20-13, 7-5) finished tied for 4th in the MAAC with Canisius (figures) but managed to put together an impressive, and needed 5-game winning streak to end the regular season and sweep through their tourney to get to this point. Iona enters this game scoring 81 ppg (1st in country) while allowing 77 ppg (3rd from last), so this is quite a contrast. If you like scoring, be an Iona fan. I imagine that watching their games would be akin to watching an NBA All-Star game.
Meanwhile, Ohio State enters the NCAA’s on a roll, winning eight consecutive games, highlighted by wins over Michigan State (x2), Indiana and Wisconsin to clinch the BTT. Players (those not named ’DeShaun Thomas’) are beginning to come into their own, particularly the very recent emergence of Sam Thompson (he can do more than dunk) and LaQuinton Ross.
Below is the usual set of tables with relevant performance information will be pulled from the excellent site at Statsheet.
The 15th seeded Gaels will put Lamont Jones (G, 6‘0“), Sean Armond (G,6’4”) , Tavon Sledge (G/F, 5‘9“), Taaj Ridley (F, 6’7”) and David Laury (F, 6’8”). Key stats for starters:
Although we should have this memorized by now, your OSU starters; Aaron Craft (G, 6’2”), Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (G, 6’4”), DeShaun Thomas (F, 6’7”), Sam Thompson (F,6’7”) and Amir Williams (C, 6’11”). Seeing significant playing time will be Shannon Scott (G, 6’1”), Evan Ravenal (C/F, 6’8”) and LaQuinton Ross (F, 6’8”). Key stats for starters:
|#32||L. Smith Jr.||33||27.5||9.5||43.6||67.7||37.3||4.9||1.5||1.3|
The below table has the comparative Four Factors as well as possessions per game (PPP), points per possession – offense (PPP-O) and points allowed per possession (PPP-D).
|eFG%||TO%||Off Reb||FT Rate||PPG||PPP (O)||PPP (D)|
Well, Iona does present some interesting numbers. They get up and down the floor a lot (72 possessions per game!) and do very well (1.12 points-per-possession) when they do. These are just staggering numbers. However, if anything, the above table is an example of why it’s not a good a good idea to always take statistics at face value, so let’s peel the onion a bit. Their RPI ranking of 101st and SoS ranking of 141st is comparable to their conference peers, but really, the level of play in the MAAC is not at Big Ten’s level. The early ‘projected point differential’, for entertainment purposes only, reckons OSU to be 13.5 points better.
I think that Iona will come out fired up and with a lot of energy, to prove the point that they truly belong on the big stage. If you thought that Indiana ran uptempo, watch the Gaels. Coach Cluess does go 10 deep, with the obvious diminishing returns, but he does get fresh legs on the floor. Although the Gaels putting up some eye-popping numbers on offense, they ‘numbers’ are nearly as staggering for their defense. If the adage ‘defense wins championships’ is true, the Gaels will have some free time this weekend.
Thad needs to get his charges out to a fast start, playing with focus and energy to counter this initial charge. Once Iona’s initial charge is blunted, Ohio State’s athleticism will take over. I see Thad using, if not starting, the “small” lineup that finished the game (and finished off) Wisconsin for substantial playing time. I’m comfortable with the Bucks’ guards ability to control the pace, offensively and defensively, more to Ohio State’s liking.
Tip-off is Friday, March 22nd at 7:15 PM (EST). The game will be aired on CBS. The live Game Chat will begin 15 minutes prior to tip-off. Please join us, unless you’re planning on heading to the game- there are still tickets available: NCAA Basketball Tournament