#93 Iona Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Iona Gaels
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #93
Conference Rank: #2 MAAC
Iona had another great season in 2015-2016. After going 16-4 in MAAC play, the Gaels cruised to the conference tournament title game where they took down top seeded Monmouth in a 79-76 thriller. Iona got a tough draw in the NCAA Tournament playing against #4 seed Iowa State, but that did not stop a lot of people from picking the Gaels to upset the Cyclones. It didn’t happen though. Coach Tim Cluess has some big names to replace heading into the 2016-2017 campaign, but once again he rebuilt the roster into the most talented in the conference. Jordan Washington, a 6-8 senior, will emerge as the new leader on the floor after averaging 14.2 points and 6.4 rebounds. On a team traditionally loaded with shooters, Washington is the guy who stays in the paint and when the offense runs through their big man, Iona is extremely dangerous offensively.
2015-16 Record: 22-11, 16-4
2015-16 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Tim Cluess
Coach Record: 140-65 at Iona, 140-65 overall
Who’s Out:
A.J. English graduated as one of the best players in Iona history. During his senior season he averaged 22.6 points, 6.2 assists and 5.0 rebounds. He was one of the many great shooters on the team, but English could also get to the basket and finish with ease. Without English, Iona needs to find a new go-to-scorer. The backcourt also lost Ibn Muhammad, who started 25 games and averaged 5.1 points and 2.6 assists. Jahaad Proctor opted to transfer after his freshman campaign. He averaged over 15 minutes per game, but could have seen his playing time diminish this year despite the loss of English. The bigger concern could be in the frontcourt where Isaiah Williams, Aaron Rountree and Ryden Hines need to be replaced. Williams was a big 6-7 wing who could knock down shots consistently and hit the glass hard. He averaged 12.8 points and a team high 6.9 rebounds. Rountree, a 6-8 forward, averaged 6.2 points and 5.2 rebounds and was often a very good complimentary player to Washington when Coach Cluess had a bigger lineup on the floor.
Who’s In:
All the concerns of losing so much talent quickly go away once the list of newcomers is seen. Coach Cluess went out and picked up two graduate transfers and four junior college transfers. E.J. Crawford is the lone freshman on the roster, but he is a good one. The 6-6 wing may have trouble cracking the regular rotation right away, but it will not be because of a lack of talent. Sam Cassell Jr. joins the program from Connecticut. He did not play too much last season with the Huskies, but Cassell is a talented player who can run the show from day one. Jon Severe, who comes from Fordham, has had a much more productive collegiate career thus far. His most productive campaign came as a freshman when he averaged 17.3 points per game. His numbers dipped in the last two years, but he has gotten more consistent shooting the ball. The former prep superstar has one more chance to put up big numbers and he will be able to do that at Iona. Jan Svandrlik and DeAndre Turner are junior college transfers. Turner will add depth at the shooting guard position while Svandrlik, at 6-7, is listed as a wing, but he can play the four spot in this offense. Fellow junior college transfers Jahyde Gardiner and Tyrell Williams are the more traditional big men. Williams will likely backup Washington at the five spot, while Gardiner could step into the undersized four role vacated by Rountree
Who to Watch:
Deyshonee Much will compete with the newcomers as the new go-to-scorer. Regardless, the big 6-5 guard will be starting after averaging 13.0 points per game and knocking down 44.7 percent of his 179 three-point attempts. Much was a revelation for the Gaels in his debut season following a brief stint at Buffalo. He is a perfect fit for the system and look for him to have plenty of 20 point nights. Schadrac Casimir is a candidate to take over some scoring. As a freshman two years ago, he averaged 14.5 points per game, but last season ended after just four games due to injury. He needs to get healthy, but when he is, Casimir is a great all-around scorer. Rickey McGill had a few promising moments during his freshman campaign and he will likely step into the backup point guard role behind Cassell.
Final Projection:
There are two things that could prevent Iona from getting back to the NCAA Tournament. The first is team chemistry. There are a lot of new faces on this team and most of them are just coming in for a year or two. Can Cassell and Severe come in and take the MAAC by storm? They have the talent to, but players like Much, Washington and Casimir, if healthy, are more than capable of taking over the team as well. If everybody finds their roles and buys into their roles, Iona is the team to beat. That is unless rebounding becomes a huge issue. Without Williams and Rountree, the rebounding takes a huge hit. Even English was one of the better rebounders on this team last season. It remains to be seen if the backcourt can hit the glass as effectively as they did last season now that they need to do so. The power forward spot is a concern too. Gardiner and Svandrik must fill in most of those minutes since it seems unlikely that the bigger guards like Crawford or Much can do enough defensively or on the glass right now to play serious minutes at the four spot. Senior Taylor Bessick will be in the mix in the frontcourt too, but he figures to back up Washington again and not spend too much time at the four spot. He is a decent rebounder though and an experienced senior.
Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI / CIT / V16
Projected Starting Five:
Sam Cassell Jr., Senior, Guard, 2.2 points per game (at Connecticut)
Jon Severe, Senior, Guard, 6.7 points per game (at Fordham)
Deyshonee Much, Junior, Guard, 13.0 points per game
Jahyde Gardiner, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
Jordan Washington, Senior, Forward, 14.2 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 79.6 (27th in nation, 1st in conference)
Scoring Defense: 74.3 (239, 8)
Field-Goal Percentage: 45.7 (81, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 42.3 (109, 6)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 9.9 (10, 1)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 37.0 (62, 1)
Free-Throw Percentage: 71.1 (125, 7)
Rebound Margin: -0.5 (204, 6)
Assists Per Game: 16.7 (15, 1)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.8 (187, 4)