Now running point in absence of Scott Machado, Momo Jones will also be charged with leading Iona in a season that serves as Gaels' encore following NCAA Tournament appearance. (Photo courtesy of New York Daily News)
Regardless of how it may have ended, last season was still historic for Iona College. For the second straight year, the Gaels put together a 25-win campaign under head coach Tim Cluess; except only this time, Iona's body of work made enough of an impression to warrant just the second at-large NCAA Tournament bid in MAAC history. Recent events such as the commitment of Norvel Pelle and eligibility of David Laury come December have vaulted the Gaels back into consideration as a potential participant in this year's field of 68, but it will not be an easy road given how everyone else in the conference has improved as well. Gone for Iona are MAAC Player of the Year Scott Machado and double-double machine Mike Glover, as both are playing professionally now for the Houston Rockets (Machado) and in Turkey, (Glover) respectively. In their absence, Iona will count on Momo Jones to perhaps run the point while incoming transfers Tre Bowman and Curtis Dennis attempt to give the Gaels more of a four-quick look alongside incumbent shooting guard Sean Armand, with Taaj Ridley likely stepping up to fill Glover's position inside.
"It was proven by our performance last year that a strong schedule is extremely important," said Cluess of Iona's nonconference ledger, which begins with a 9pm tipoff against Denver at the Hynes Center on November 9th. "Although we're not on the road as long, (Iona was away from New Rochelle through the entire month of December last season) it's still very demanding." Following their season opener, Iona travels to the Virgin Islands for the Paradise Jam, first facing Quinnipiac on November 16th before awaiting either Connecticut or Wake Forest, and ultimately culminating on November 19th with a matchup of four potential opponents that include former Final Four program George Mason.
Conference play opens on November 28th for the Gaels with the traditional two MAAC games before Iona returns to their nonconference slate. The remainder of the MAAC schedule has yet to be announced, but the Gaels will host Niagara on November 28th before traveling to Jersey City a week later for a December 5th meeting with Saint Peter's. Three days removed from their collision with the Peacocks, Iona will tackle another Garden State foe in Mike Rice and Rutgers, as the two teams will meet in the Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden as the undercard matchup on a doubleheader that will also include Fordham taking on St. John's.
Iona's next contest comes on December 15th when the Gaels take on Mark Fox and the Georgia Bulldogs, who will serve as the Gaels' first Southeastern Conference opponent since 2007, when Iona faced Vanderbilt. A home meeting with Liberty ensues three days later, with a journey to Philadelphia next on the ledger. The Gaels' December 20th tipoff against La Salle is one of two trips to the City of Brotherly Love for Iona in a span of nine days, both against Atlantic 10 programs. Iona's final nonconference home game precedes the second jaunt to Pennsylvania's largest city, however, as the Gaels host Norfolk State on December 23rd in a season where the Spartans will attempt to build on last season's dramatic NCAA Tournament upset of Missouri despite having lost center Kyle O'Quinn to the NBA. The Gaels will next travel to Saint Joseph's on December 28th to conclude a home-and-home series that featured a thrilling double-overtime Iona win in the Gaels' Hynes Center opener a year ago, and will conclude 2012 with a New Year's Eve matinee in western New York against reigning A-10 champion St. Bonaventure. Just as every other MAAC school will do, Iona will again participate in the annual Bracketbuster series as well, and a road contest in February will have the honor of being the Gaels' final non-MAAC contest.
A Daly Dose Of Hoops will have more information on Iona in the coming weeks, including the Gaels' MAAC schedule once it is revealed, as well as updates from New Rochelle throughout the season.