Of the four No. 4-13 seeded lines in this year's opening round, the Iona Gaels would appear to have the best shot at unhorsing their favored opponent on Thursday, the Iowa State Cyclones. Tim Cluess' club is playing extraordinarily fun basketball this season, having won their last eight straight games, including the MAAC Tournament final.
In the same span, Iowa State has gone 4-4, though granted against five teams in the AP top 25.
Thursday's bout in Denver promises to offer a shot-happy, full-speed affair. Both clubs average around 72 possessions per game, according to Ken Pomeroy, with the Cyclones ranked 53rd and the Gaels ranked 45th. Iona, for its part, shot 320 three-pointers this season, which is good for 12th in the country. Iowa State's three-point shooting ranks considerably lower, but the Cyclones' field goal percentage is astonishing at 50.2 percent on the year. Where the Gaels can kill with volume, Iowa State does so with accuracy.
The Gaels' brand of trapeze play demands much of opponents' defenses. It's not uncommon to see Iona pass but twice a possession, a feature of Tim Cluess' ran and gun philosophy. In their first Big Dance since 2013, expect these guys to push the game speed to its limits. Especially so, since Steve Prohm's club is giving up 75 points per game, which ranks his defense 275th in Division 1.
Iona senior guard A.J. English thus carries his 22.4 points per game into Thursday's game, where he'll look to write a Gael Cinderella story in 2016.
How to watch:
Tip-off: 2 p.m. Thursday
Online streaming: NCAA March Madness Live