#63 Iona Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Iona Gaels

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #63
Conference Rank: #1 MAAC

Iona Team Page#63 Iona Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy Iona Basketball Tickets

It was quite unfortunate that Iona did not make the NCAA Tournament last year. The Gaels dominated the MAAC, going 17-3 in conference play. The high scoring Gaels probably would have been a 12 or 13 seed in the NCAA Tournament and, matchup pending, a popular upset pick. But instead they fell to Manhattan in the conference title game and had to settle for a road trip in the NIT, where they lost to Rhode Island. Once again Coach Tim Cluess has a potent and explosive squad and once again they will be favorites to represent the conference in the NCAAs. Few players in the nation are more explosive than senior guard A.J. English. The 6-4 senior averaged an impressive 20.1 points, 5.1 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game in 2014-2015. He will take a lot of three-pointers and knock quite a few of them down, but English is also one of the most dangerous drive and dish, or score or get fouled in his case, players in the nation. With English back, this team is going to score close to 80 points per game yet again.

2014-15 Record: 26-9, 17-3
2014-15 Postseason: NIT
Coach: Tim Cluess
Coach Record: 118-54 at Iona, 118-54 overall

Who’s Out:
Every player but one who averaged over ten minutes per game last year is back. The one not returning is the reigning MAAC Player of the Year. David Laury, a 6-9 forward, averaged 19.8 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.3 blocks during his senior season. Not only is he a massive presence to replace in the paint, but Laury could step out and knock down shots too. Jeylani Dublin, Vangelis Bebis, Grant Ellis and Kristia Duravcevic are the other departures. While none were major contributors, Dublin and Bebis at least played in most of the games.

Who’s In:
Coach Cluess would like to have more options on the bench then he did last year and he should get it with this class. Taylor Bessick, Aaron Rountree and Deyshonee Much are all Division I transfers who bring a wealth of experience to an already experienced roster. Bessick comes from James Madison where he spent two seasons. As a sophomore back in 2013-2014, he averaged 6.3 points and 4.7 rebounds for the Dukes. He will immediately help the Gaels on the glass, but he can knock down some mid-range shots too. Rountree is a graduate transfer from Wake Forest who is another versatile forward. Rountree has starting experience at an ACC school. He may have only averaged 2.8 points and 2.5 rebounds with the Demon Deacons last season, but he can do much more at Iona. Much, a 6-5 guard, comes from Buffalo where he saw limited action. However, he is a good scorer and could provide a nice spark off of the bench once he is eligible in the second semester. Junior college transfer Jordan Washington will join Bessick and Rountree as experienced options in the frontcourt. Washington spent last year leading Indian Hills Community College in scoring and rebounding. Incoming freshmen Rickey McGill and Jahaad Proctor and redshirt freshman Benjamin Nwokeabia will not be asked to do much this year.

Who to Watch:
English isn’t the only returning scoring threat though. Guards Schadrac Casimir and Isaiah Williams are both great shooters and all around scorers. Casimir, a 5-10 sophomore, connected on 94 three-pointers as a freshman and hit on 42.3 percent of his attempts. That is a lot of shooting production. Williams is not quite as prolific, although knocking down 69 three-pointers would be very noteworthy on any other team. He is consistent though and made 44.2 percent of his outside shots and averaged 13.3 points per game. Williams is also 6-7 and a big reason why Coach Cluess can run a smaller lineup. He will play at the power forward spot and he does pretty well on the defensive end and very well on the glass. In fact, without Laury, Williams will be asked to do even more work in the rebounding department. Speaking of rebounding guards, Kelvin Amayo helps in that regard as well. He can do a bit of everything though and averaged 7.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.0 steals during his junior campaign. Amayo’s versatility should land him a regular starting spot this season.

Final Projection:
Ryden Hines, a 6-10 forward, and Ibn Muhammad, a 5-9 guard, were the main contributors off of the bench last season. With the influx of talent though, both will have to compete for playing time off of the bench. That just goes to show how this team can be better even without Laury. There is a lot of depth here all of a sudden and on a team that runs up and down the floor as much as Iona does, that is extremely important. English, Casimir and Williams all averaged over 34 minutes per game last year, led by English and his 37.4. It would be nice if Coach Cluess found some depth that he trusted enough to give his superstars a bit of a rest every once in a while.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
A.J. English, Senior, Guard, 20.1 points per game
Schadrac Casimir, Sophomore, Guard, 14.5 points per game
Kelvin Amayo, Senior, Guard, 7.9 points per game
Isaiah Williams, Senior, Guard, 13.3 points per game
Taylor Bessick, Junior, Forward, DNP last season

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 79.5 (5th in nation, 1st in conference)
Scoring Defense: 73.3 (316, 10)
Field-Goal Percentage: 46.3 (49, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.4 (144, 6)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 9.8 (5, 1)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 39.6 (13, 1)
Free-Throw Percentage: 70.1 (137, 6)
Rebound Margin: -1.7 (259, 8)
Assists Per Game: 16.4 (7, 1)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.2 (142, 3)


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