Iona vs. Rider: Friday Thoughts
Light schedule tonight with Ivy League Fridays not really getting going on a consistent basis until next weekend, but there are some entertaining matchups to keep fans occupied. Both MAAC matchups consist of top-half (of the standings) teams taking on squads hoping to avoid "First Round Friday" in March's conference tournament. One such game is Iona hosting Rider on ESPNU, and while Tommy Dempsey's Broncs have been a major disappointment this year they have the firepower necessary to keep up with the Gaels.
But can Danny Stewart and company defend well enough to keep talents such as Scott Machado (the national leader in assists) and Mike Glover (AKA Optimus Prime) in check? Novar Gadson, who has found the going tough in recovering from offseason microfracture surgery, has shot 5-for-17 in his last three games and one has to wonder if there's some fatigue at play. The chemistry was off during non-conference play, especially with the addition of Virginia transfer Jeff Jones, but that seemed to be improving some before dropping games at Siena and Fairfield.
Also in the MAAC surprising Manhattan visits a Marist team that seems to be young every season, and it could become a situation where Chuck Martin's club needs a run in the MAAC Tournament to avoid a regime change. Freshman Chavaughn Lewis has been one of the better rookies in the MAAC and he's second on the team in scoring to Devin Price, but the Red Foxes average 15.7 turnovers per game. That could be an issue against Steve Masiello's Jaspers, who will look to ramp up the tempo with their full-court pressure.
George Beamon has led the way offensively for Manhattan, and after last season some seemed to forget how explosive a scorer he was in high school. Manhattan is a young team as well but they've all bought in to Masiello's vision for the program, and the team's experienced more success than expected as a result. Last year's meeting in Poughkeepsie looked to be a win for the home team...until Michael Alvarado did this. Hopefully we get similar fireworks tonight.
The best game of the night is in the Horizon League as first-place Milwaukee visits a Youngstown State team that's turned some heads this season. Seniors Kaylon Williams and Tony Meier lead the way for Rob Jeter's club, but they're going to have to be at their best defensively especially on the perimeter as the Penguins have multiple scoring options there. But what Youngstown State doesn't have is muscle in the paint, and Milwaukee may be able to take advantage of that. Butler was able to do so last weekend in their home win over YSU, and that could be what keeps Youngstown State from being a title contender this season.
Cleveland State is another Horizon contender and they host Green Bay, a team that has the ability to upset an unsuspecting title contender if not work their way back into the race. Center Alec Brown leads the way for the Phoenix, and his height (7'1") could be an issue for the Vikings in the paint. But can Green Bay slow down Jeremy Montgomery? That's easier said than done. And in the Atlantic Sun, Florida Gulf Coast visits Stetson in a battle of teams that are hoping to eventually separate from a middle of the pack that features five teams with either three or four league losses.
NCAA Division I Games
7:00 PM Florida Gulf Coast at Stetson (ESPN3)
7:05 PM Milwaukee at Youngstown State (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Green Bay at Cleveland State (ESPNU)
9:00 PM Manhattan at Marist (ESPN3)
10:00 PM Rider at Iona (ESPNU)