#71 Iona Gaels: College Basketball 111 in 111


iona cheerleaders

Welcome to The Sports Bank’s third annual college basketball season preview series.  Two years we looked at 99 teams in 99 days.  Last year, we were slightly more aggressive and expanded to 111 teams in 111 days and will do so again as we look ahead to the 2012-2013 season.

We will rank the 75 power conference teams and top 36 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order.  We’ll break down rosters, transfers, incoming freshmen, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.

Behind the highest scoring offense in Division One last year, the Iona Gaels accomplished the difficult feat of earning an at large bid into the NCAA Tournament as a mid-major team.  However, Iona suffered a collapse of epic proportions in their opening round game and as a result was bounced by BYU.  Tim Cluess loses several key contributors from last year’s team and will rely on a plethora of newcomers to keep the ball rolling.

IONA GAELS
Last Season: 1st, 15-3 MAAC, 25-8
Predicted MAAC Finish: 1st

Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Taaj Ridley (Sr)/Nyandigisi Moikubo (Sr)
F: DeSean Anderson (Jr)/Norvel Pelle (Fr)/David Laury (So)
G/F: Curtis Dennis (Sr)Grant Ellis (Fr)
SG: Sean Armand (Jr)/Tre Bowman (Jr)/A.J. English (Fr)
PG: LaMont Jones (Sr)/Da’Shawn Gomez (Jr)

Gone: PG-Scott Machado, F/C-Mike Glover, G/F-Randy Dezouvre, G-Trinity Fields, G-Jermel Jenkins, SG-Kyle Smith (transfer-Seton Hall), SG-Ra’Shad James (transfer), F/C-Josh Gomez (transfer)

2012-2013 Outlook:
The biggest voids for Tim Cluess to fill this season will be at point guard and inside with the losses of the nation’s leading assist man Scott Machado and versatile inside/outside threat Mike Glover.  The departure of some valuable role players via graduation and transfer means Iona must acclimate nine new players onto their roster for the upcoming season.

After playing off the ball for a good chunk of last season, MoMo Jones will become more of a primary ball-handler like he was at Arizona.  Jones is more of a scorer than true distributor and has a bit of a tendency to get shot happy at times but is more than capable of leading the show.  Junior college transfer Da’Shawn Gomez is more of a Machado-like point guard who is at his best when setting the table for his teammates though he is also more than capable of scoring when needed.  Gomez’s presence could allow Jones to play off the ball this season as well.

Sean Armand shot a blistering 46% from downtown last season and will see a more prominent role this year but will have journeyman Curtis Dennis to help him out on the wing.  Dennis transfers in from a Toledo program that was placed on probation and as a result, becomes immediately eligible.  Dennis averaged 12.7 points per game and is now on his third college team after starting his career out at New Mexico.

There are three other new wings who will vie for playing time off the bench.  Tre Bowman is a former Penn State off guard who was originally set to transfer to Texas Southern after spending a year at Midland Junior College, but re-opened his recruitment after a coaching change.  A pair of freshmen, Grant Ellis and A.J. English will also battle for minutes.  Ellis is an athletic slasher while English is known as a dangerous three-point threat.

Junior college transfer Mike Haynes was supposed to be another factor on the wing for the Gaels but he was tragically shot and killed this summer while reportedly trying to break up a fight in his hometown of Chicago.

The difference maker for Iona this season will be versatile and athletic freshman Norvel Pelle who originally committed to St. John’s and was supposed to be a freshman last season, but didn’t qualify academically and instead attended a prep school.  He recently decided to play his college ball for the Gaels but has still not been cleared to play by the NCAA and likely won’t become eligible until the second semester with a possibility that he might not be able to play this year at all.

That will leave the frontcourt shorthanded for at least the first semester since Lamar transfer David Laury doesn’t become eligible to play until after the first semester.  Taaj Ridley will be asked to hold down the fort inside as the team’s lone true post player even though he only stands 6’7.

JUCO transfer DeSean Anderson will likely take on a major role right from the opening tip.  Anderson is an athletic 6’8 who is more comfortable playing on the wing but should be able to excel in Iona’s run and gun offense.  Seldom used senior Nyandigisi Moikubo should see more minutes as well although Cluess will certainly have no problem using a four-guard line-up like he did quite frequently a year ago.

Iona also picked up a transfer in Iowa State point guard Tavon Sledge who must sit out this season per NCAA rules.  He will have three years of eligibility remaining at the start of the 2013-14 season and will help the ease the loss when MoMo Jones graduates.

With or without Pelle, Iona figures to be the favorite in the MAAC this season with their high powered offensive attack although Loyola (MD) returns a solid core of talent and should be right up there as well.  How well the numerous new faces mesh together and the decision on Pelle’s immediate future will be the difference for the Gaels this season.

Player to Watch: Norvel Pelle
Pelle’s older brother recently described Norvel as a “new age KD (Kevin Durant.)”  While that is absolutely a ridiculous overstatement, there is no question Pelle has the type of talent to be a major game changer for Iona in the MAAC.  If he ends up being able to suit up this year, he will be a dangerous weapon in Iona’s up-tempo offense.

Key Non-Conference Games:
11/16 vs. Quinnipiac (Paradise Jam)
11/18 vs. UConn/Wake Forest (Paradise Jam)
11/19 vs. New Mexico/UIC/George Mason/Mercer (Paradise Jam)
12/8 vs. Rutgers (at MSG)
12/15 at Georgia
12/20 at La Salle
12/28 at St. Joseph’s
12/31 at St. Bonaventure
2/23 vs. TBA (ESPN Bracketbusters)

OTHER 111 IN 111’S:
#72 Northwestern Wildcats
#73 Oklahoms State Cowboys
#74 Rutgers Scarlet Knights
#75 USC Trojans
#76 UConn Huskies
#77 Harvard Crimson
#78 Xavier Musketeers
#79 Ole Miss Rebels
#80 Clemson Tigers
#81 Oregon State Beavers
#82 Texas A&M Aggies
#83 Providence Friars
#84 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
#85 Oklahoma Sooners
#86 Lehigh Mountain Hawks
#87 Washington State Cougars
#88 Long Beach State 49ers
#89 Belmont Bruins
#90 Vanderbilt Commodores
#91 Dayton Flyers
#92 Houston Cougars
#93 UCF Knights
#94 Old Dominion Monarchs
#95 Oregon Ducks
#96 LSU Tigers
#97 South Carolina Gamecocks
#98 Seton Hall Pirates
#99 Georgia Bulldogs
#100 DePaul Blue Demons
#101 Boston College Eagles
#102 Penn State Nittany Lions
#103 Arizona State Sun Devils
#104 Virginia Tech Hokies
#105 Texas Tech Red Raiders
#106 Auburn Tigers
#107 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
#108 TCU Horned Frogs
#109 Mississippi State Bulldogs
#110 Utah Utes
#111 Nebraska Cornhuskers

David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.  David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu.  He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet (Yup, repeat champ… #humblebrag.)

You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.

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