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I’m just like you (except a bit trimmer and a few steps higher on the handsome ladder), I’m patiently waiting for the conference schedule to begin. Although the road tilt with Ole Miss figures prominently in regards to building a decent NCAA resume, I am already looking ahead to the A10 slate. UD opens conference play with a visit from Saint Louis, a true measuring stick game for the Flyers. After a trip to Fordham and Richmond, VCU comes to the Arena — we should have an accurate barometer as to where the season is headed after Shaka Smart’s team returns home.

The Iona Gaels are in town tonight, this is usually where you stop reading.

Overview

The Gaels invade the Arena with a 5-3 record clinging to their haunches. Iona likes to score, score and then score again. They are like a bunch of Puerto Rican men in baggy shorts. The Gaels have taken down conference-mate George Mason and are coming off a defeat at the hands of league-foe Saint Bonaventure (they also beat Florida Gulf Coast pretty badly — remember when people actually thought “Dunk City” was going to be more than a couple of wins in the NCAA Tournament? Silly folks). Coming off their second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, Iona returns three starters and was picked second in the preseason MAAC poll.

Iona is not a deep squad, basically running a rotation of seven players per night. The Gaels are a very efficient offensive team, shooting 54% from the floor (including a damn impressive 55.8% effective field goal percentage) and just under 76% from the stripe. Iona hits around ten three-pointers per game, the long-ball accounts for 36% of the team’s scoring this season. A squad that deeply cherishes the basketball, the Gaels turn the ball over just 11.5 times per contest.

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Meet and Greet

SEAN ARMAND, remember the name. You know how the majority of opponents UD has faced lately have been jokes? Well this dude ain’t no punchline. The senior guard, an All-MAAC selection, is scoring 23 points per game, connecting on 46% of his three-point attempts. Armand is, in a word, legit. He has been feasting on A10 defenses this season, dropping 30 against both GW and the Bonnies.

Teaming with Armand in the backcourt are A.J. English (13.9 ppg/4.9 apg) and Isaiah Williams (8.5 ppg/4.6 rpg). Williams is 6’7″ and spends all his time outside the arc. English is NBA Hall of Famer Alex English’s son and Iona’s second fiddle on the offensive side of the floor.

Sidenote: I once sat next to Alex English on a plane. Alex is 6’7″ and black, so every person on the flight asked him whether or not he had ever played basketball (incidentally, passersby repeatedly asked me if I was going with him on a Make-A-Wish trip). He repeatedly responded, “A little bit, back in high school.” He had a Toronto Raptors bag under the seat in front of him, which led me to quickly Google the Raptor’s front-office directory. Sure enough, it confirmed that I was sitting next to the most prolific scorer in the NBA during the 1980s. I waited about a half hour after the flight took off to ask him why he wasn’t forthcoming about his past. He essentially stated that he was done talking about his playing days, he could no longer make his past interesting to other people. We sat in silence for the rest of the flight.

Lil’ Tavon Sledge (1.6 ppg/1.6 rpg) and Tre Bowman (12.1 ppg/4.1 rpg) round out Iona’s guard spots. If I had to pick someone to explode against UD it’d be Bowman. He’s the streaky shooter the Flyers always seem to kneel down and surrender to.

Junior forward David Laury (14.8 ppg/8.4 rpg) joins Armand on the All-MAAC preseason team. Laury averaged a double-double last season after transferring in from Lamar State, he’s nothing to fuck with.  Laury is tough inside and gets to the line a lot. Rutgers transfer Mike Poole (4.4 ppg/3.5 rpg) adds depth to the Gael frontcourt.

Numbers Game

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Prediction

Dem Flyers win, but it won’t be easy. Iona despises defense just as much as UD does, so let’s call it a 84-77 Gem City victory. Watch out for that goddamn black ice.

JOHNRXMAS