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Tiny Dancers: Iona Gaels

By Matt Norlander | Staff Writer

Momo Jones and Iona are headed to their second straight NCAA tourney. (USATSI)

The concept of being "unlucky" in college hoops is one that hasn't fully caught on yet. What do you say of a team that loses six of seven games, with each of those losses coming by three or fewer points? And five overtime sessions needs in those six games?

Did they not want it enough -- or were they merely unlucky as a whole? The answer is closer to the latter, but that's a discussion for another time.

However you choose to view it, know that Iona endured such a stretch on the back end of its conference slate. It was very defeating, bother literally and emotionally, and Gaels coach Tim Cluess even told me after the team's 66-64 loss to Fairfield on Feb. 18 that he wasn't sure how much more the group could handle with so many close shaves.

Then came a 65-64 loss at Indiana State.

But since then the Gaels got themselves together and made a run in the MAAC tournament to earn a second straight bid to the NCAA tournament. An emotional Cluess was caught on camera sharing tears and words with the team's star guard, Momo Jones.

No. 4 Iona knocked out Manhattan, the sixth seed, 60-57 Monday night in Springfield, Mass. Tre Bowman led the Gaels with 20. Iona's eight MAAC tourney titles are best all-time in the league. This team is not as good as the group that earned an at-large last year, but when you play in the MAAC, any way to get into the Big Bracket is sweet enough.

Player to know: Momo Jones. Jones came by way of transfer from Arizona two seasons ago. He leads the team in points with 23.3 per game, one of the highest averages in the country. He is a combo point guard that shoots first, of course. He's not even really a true point, and often times is not asked to do so. He's dynamic and capable of playing against a lot of other guards, regardless of conference affiliation.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 20-13 overall, 11-7 in MAAC
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 2012
  • Jerry Palm predicts: 15 seed
  • KenPom ranking: 97
  • Sagarin ranking:96
  • RPI: 100
  • Best wins: Denver, at Georgia
  • Worst losses: Quinnipiac, at St. Peter's, Marist
  • Notable stat: Under Cluess the past few years, Iona's been one of the most reliable offenses in the country. The team goes and goes and goes, putting up 81.3 per game, second-most in the nation.

For more college basketball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnCBB on Twitter, like us on Facebook and subscribe to the thrice-a-week podcast on iTunes. You can follow Matt Norlander on Twitter here: @MattNorlander.

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