By Jon Rothstein
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Scott Machado can’t get the image out of his head.
Not in practice. Not in film sessions. Not even after Iona finished the regular season with 24 wins.
The Gaels senior point guard won’t be able to forget last year’s MAAC title game defeat to St. Peter’s — a loss that still haunts him almost a year to the day after it happened.
“I think about that game almost every day,” Machado said of last year’s loss in the MAAC Finals to the Peacocks. “We just showed up to the arena and expected to win without doing the necessary things we needed to do in order to win. Throughout the entire game, St. Peter’s was talking on defense and in sync. We weren’t like that.”
Since that game, the buzz surrounding Iona has been beyond palpable.
Machado has developed into arguably the best point guard in college basketball and a potential first round draft pick. Senior power forward Mike Glover has continued to be a stalwart on the interior and sophomore Sean Armand has emerged as lethal shooting threat from long distance. Arizona transfer Momo Jones has also blended nicely with Machado in the back court, giving Iona coach Tim Cluess a dynamite guard tandem for the mid major level.
But none of the accolades the Gaels have accomplished this season, including impressive victories in the non conference portion of their schedule over Maryland, St. Joseph’s, and Nevada will matter if they don’t care of business in the MAAC Tournament in Springfield over the coming days.
“It would be a big disappointment,” Machado said of not winning a MAAC title. “We know what’s at stake and we’re a different team than we were last year. There’s more continuity and trust within this team.”
Frequently in college basketball, we’ve seen teams dominant teams in smaller conferences lose focus for brief stretches of the season and a major reason for that could be because the lone way of reaching the field of 68 is by earning an automatic bid through the conference tournament.
The Gaels while breathtaking offensively at times, have had multiple games they’ve like to have back this year including two conference tilts in which they blew double digit leads against Manhattan and Siena.
Still there is a general feeling that should this team play the way they’re capable, they won’t just be good enough to win the MAAC — they’ll be good enough to be a factor in the NCAA Tournament.
“We can’t have bad stretches like we’ve had a few times this season and we’ve addressed that,” Machado said. “We know now is the time.”
What’s your prediction for the MAAC tourney? Sound off below…