Iona College’s nickname alone should scare the BYU Cougars.
Having lost twice this season to the Gaels of Saint Mary’s, the Cougars draw another group of Gaels from a Catholic school in the first round of the NCAA Tournament - not a play-in game, to be semantically correct - on Tuesday at Dayton, Ohio.
Iona an intriguing team, with some Utah ties. Senior forward Mike Glover, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, spent the 2009-10 season in Price, playing for the school then known as the College of Eastern Utah. Guard Lamont Jones transferred from Arizona, having played against BYU in December 2010 at EnergySolutions Arena.
Jones produced all of his 20 points in the second half of that loss to the Cougars, in a 7-of-11 shooting performance that serves as a good illustration of Iona’s explosive ability. The Gaels lead the country in scoring (83.3) and have three outstanding players. The No. 3 scorer is point guard Scott Machado, who will provide a tough matchup for BYU freshman Matt Carlino.
Iona, located in the New Rochelle (the New York suburb where Rob and Laura Petrie lived in the “Dick Van Dyke Show,” for trivia buffs), has assembled some of the area’s top talent. Glover originally enrolled at Seton Hall before finding his way to Eastern Utah, where led the Golden Eagles to third place in the 2010 national junior college tournament.
Jones, who steered Arizona’s run to the Elite Eight last March, became eligible to play this season after transferring because of a hardship provision, attributed to his grandmother’s illness. Machado, a senior, starred for St. Benedict’s Prep in New Jersey, a national power.
Of course, there’s a reason Iona barely made the NCAA field. The Gaels were vulnerable enough defensively to lose to Fairfield in the semifinals of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and their only impressive non-conference win was a six-point defeat of Nevada at home.
So BYU certainly is capable of outscoring the Gaels, if the Cougars’ shooters are on their games.