When the Iona Gaels line up for their first NCAA Tournament appearance on Friday night, they will carry a certain determination with them; purposeful in reversing the bad memory of something that made history, in the wrong way.
They will have a mountain to climb, as they take on the Ohio State Buckeyes, champions of the Big Ten, in a West Regional game that begins at 7:15 PM ET at the University of Dayton Arena in Dayton, O.
Here is the setup:
Ohio State Buckeyes (26-7 SU, 19-12 ATS) vs. Iona Gaels (20-13 SU, 15-15 ATS)
NCAA Tournament – West Regional
Friday, March 22 – 7:15 PM ET
UD Arena – Dayton, O.
For Iona, this site represents a return to the “scene of the crime,” so to speak, as they executed a record-breaking collapse in this building at about this time last year.
They will be getting “two touchdowns” in the NCAA Tournament odds that have been established by the folks at BetAnySports:
Over 145 Points -110
Under 145 Points -110
Ohio State wins game -1300
Iona wins game +850
Last year Iona qualified as an at-large team for the NCAA’s through the First Four, where they had to play BYU. No problem – the Gaels got off to a 25-point lead in the first half of play, as they scored 55 points in the game’s first SIXTEEN minutes. Even for a team that was the highest-scoring in the nation at that point that was shocking. From there it was disastrous, as the Cougars shut Iona down and eventually took the lead, holding the Gaels to just 17 points over the last 24 minutes to come away with a 78-72 win. It was the biggest lead that has ever been lost in an NCAA Tournament game.
Nine new players have joined the Iona program since then, though some of the main cogs are still around. One of them is Arizona transfer Momo Jones, who was third in the nation this year, averaging 23 points a game. In last year’s collapse, he made just three of 16 shots. So from the leadership on down, there is a spirit of redemption permeating through this team’s preparation.
This season Iona won three close decisions – over Canisius, Niagara and Manhattan – to capture the Metro Atlantic crown. They did go through a rough stretch where they lost six out of seven games, by a total of eleven points, with four of them going into overtime. So obviously some of them could have gone the other way. The Gaels have a few notable scalps on their mantle, at least to their standards, having beaten Denver, which just advanced to the second round of the NIT (before losing), Georgia of the SEC and ACC entry Wake Forest, not to mention Liberty, which made it to the First Four this year.
Iona is once against high-powered, with an 80.7 ppg average, second nationally, and they do pour some three-pointers down (8.4 a game). Whether they can handle Ohio State (which was +1500 to win the tournament in the BetAnySports futures) on the defensive end of the floor is another question. Though they are not so explosive beyond the arc, they have one of the Big Ten’s best performers in forward Deshaun Thomas (19.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg). But he’s the only Buckeye who averaged double digits. Aaron Craft (4.6 assist / game) has directed the offense to eight straight wins, including two wins over Michigan State, with Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois and Minnesota among those victims. They hold teams to just under 58 points per game, and they will be looking to slow down Iona’s offensive flow.
The Gaels are not in Ohio State’s class, but they are coming in with a bit of a chip on their shoulder, and the Buckeyes have bigger fish to fry. We do expect that Iona has the ability to break from the gate with some fire, and we remember where they hit the brick wall last year. OSU may wear them down, but in the $1 Million Charles Jay / BetAnySports March Madness Challenge (a simulation), we’re going to lay down a small play of $10,000 on Iona at a +230 money line price to lead Ohio State after the first five minutes – which is available at BetAnySports – and may do even more along those lines.
CHARLES JAY, a contributor to BangTheBook.com, is one of the most experienced sports betting writers in America, as he has written more than 10,000 pieces specifically for the industry over the last seven years. At one time employed as an editorial consultant with USA Network, he is also a former syndicated radio talk show host (American Radio Networks) and has also done color commentary on boxing events in the past for Prime Network (now known as Fox SportsNet). He is a veteran of more than a decade and a half working within the professional sports industry, and has been handicapping sporting events for over 25 years. In addition to this, he has compiled specialty odds for a number of online sportsbook operations and media outlets.