If there are minimal first-round upsets in this year's NCAA Tournament, blame the Iona Gaels.
Pre-season MAAC favorites, and boasting arguably the country's best point guard with an exceptional offensive-minded supporting cast, the Gaels were built for a surprising tournament run. They even were garnering at-large consideration coming into the season, but non-conference losses to Purdue, Marshall and conference losses to Siena and Loyola (MD) erased that opportunity.
Today, the top-seeded Gaels were bounced in the semifinals of the MAAC Conference Tournament by Fairfield.
That means no opportunity for Scott Machado and MoMo Jones to incite an upset.
Following the game, Iona head coach Tim Cluess spoke candidly about how highly he thought of his team.
Per The New York Times Pete Thamel:
Is Cluess correct?
Not really, but please don't abuse the obvious Clue(l)ess play on words here.
Just like Boise State football haters contend that there's no way the Broncos could be even remotely as successful as they currently are if faced with BCS-conference competition each weekend, the Gaels would surely break a sweat against Big East bottom feeders. They're a bit more talented than say, Marist.
The Gaels could certainly compete and beat a majority of the eight or nine best teams from all the major conferences. As one of the best offensive teams in the country, the Gaels are an NCAA Tournament caliber team when it comes to pure talent.
They play at a fast, efficient pace that would drive any opposing coach crazy but have a hard time playing defense (ranked 336th in the country in FGs allowed).
It's the two-month grind of constantly playing top-level Division I players as opposed to average or below average Division I players that separate the high major from the mid-major. Using the Big East as an example was probably a bad idea too, as Clueess is basically indirectly calling out UConn and West Virginia - two teams that could easily stop Iona.
It's a shame we won't get to see Iona match-up against one of the big boys and throw the ball out on the floor.
Just know that when Greg Gumbel doesn't call their name on Selection Sunday that the omission is fair and appropriate.