Iona clinched their 12th appearance in the NCAA Tournament Monday as the Gaels defeated their arch-rival Siena 87-86 in overtime of the MAAC Championship Game.
This season marks Iona’s fourth tournament appearance since 2012. The Gaels have just one win in the Big Dance and that came in an 84-78 win over Holy Cross in the first round in 1980.
This is the second straight year Iona has punched their ticket to the Big Dance. The Gaels fell to Iowa State 94-81 in the first round as a 13 seed.
The MAAC is exhibit A of having your conference tournament be detrimental to the conference’s potential for a win in the NCAA Tournament.
The MAAC plays their conference tournament at the Time Union Center – Siena’s home court. It is a solid venue and the biggest arena in the MAAC, but it completely undermines any advantage the regular season champ receives. The No. 1 seed in the MAAC has not advanced to the NCAA Tournament since 2010.
Monmouth won the regular season crown and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, but their reward was facing off with the No. 4 seed Siena in the semifinals in what amounted to a road game. So Monmouth’s reward for winning 55 games over the past two seasons is a pair of NIT appearances.
Iona participated in one of the strangest games in NCAA Tournament history in the 2012 play-in game. The Gaels faced off with BYU and came out scorching hot built a 25-point lead while recording 55 points in the first half – they looked like world beaters.
Iona backed up that offensive explosion with a dud of a second half as the Gaels managed to score just 17 points and BYU came back to win 78-72. It was one of the biggest reversals I have ever seen in any sport.
This season, Iona registered a 22-12 overall record and finished with a 12-8 mark in conference, which was good for a third place finish behind Monmouth and St. Peter’s.
The Gaels did not record a win over a power conference team, but their best win came against Nevada, a probable tournament team and the favorite to win the Mountain West Conference.
The Gaels have four players that average more than ten points per game. Jordan Washington leads Iona with 17.8 ppg and also averages a team-high 7.4 rebounds per game.
The Otter Room official bracket projections have Iona pretty firm as a 14-seed. The Gaels have some tournament experience, but defense is a weakness and they have yet to show the potential to be a threat to upset the potential three-seed they would face in the first round.