Syracuse better not overlook Iona College in Season Opener
This week, the reigning MAAC champion Iona Gaels were voted to win the their conference again this season, and for good reason.
After Monmouth was upset in last year’s MAAC tournament, the Iona Gaels took full advantage in beating Sienna to punch their ticket to the NCAA tournament. Now ,Monmouth will be looking up at The Gaels in preseason polls, as offensive efficiency has become Iona’s staple for success.
The Gaels concluded their 2016-17 season first in the MAAC for three-point field-goal percentage (39.7) and free-throw percentage (76.8). They also finished second in offensive production with 80.4 points per game, while keeping a field-goal percentage of 45.4%. They were one of the leaders in assist totals per game (15.5), and had an assist to turnover ratio of 1:3.
So, why are these stats so important going into this season? Well, on opening night the Gaels will travel to the Carrier Dome to face the Syracuse Orangemen and, to be frank, the Orange better do some extensive preparation for this game. Iona is simply the ideal kind of mid major program that could give a young Syracuse team problems.
The most potentially damaging of these problems is Cuse’s reliance on their suffocating 2-3 zone. While statistically effective,the issue here is that this offensively efficient team will be coming in capable of shooting their way right out of the zone. We all know chemistry may be a tad rusty the first few games of the season, both for the Orangeman and Gaels alike. But Syracuse really needs to focus on suffocating Iona beyond the arc, or else their defense could be the perfect complement to a 3 point shooting clinic for Iona.
Of course the Gaels will be severely undermatched inside, which is where the Orange should have their way. However, if Syracuse decides to come out flat in the first half, while Iona finding a way to keep the game close, it could come down to efficiency and free throws in the end. Both aspects Iona is extremely seasoned in.
I wont make any rash predictions for this game, but I must simply bring to light what should be a very interesting matchup to watch. Be sure to check out the Gaels in conference play as well, especially if your looking to watch a well oiled brand of veteran basketball.