NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The NCAA tournament’s first round begins Thursday at noon.
Among the teams ‘in the dance’ is Iona College.
It’s the 4th time in 7 years that the Gaels are in the tournament. CBS2’s Steve Overymeyer was at their sendoff in New Rochelle on Wednesday.
Waiting for Iona is Oregon — one of the best teams — and Dillon Brooks — one of the best players in the nation.
The team has already avoided one disaster.
“I say, mother nature on our side. Clear skies today. We’re just ready to take off,” Iona guard, Sam Cassell Jr. said.
Joining the team is a student who created the school’s pep band last year.
“There are nearly 100 people hopping on that plane. This is a bigger following than last year,” Greg Potempa said.
Friday’s game will be in Sacramento, California at 2 p.m. eastern time. Iona will stay on New York time for workouts, meals and sleep. It’s a constant reminder that they’re representing more than just a school.
“It’s exciting to see others excited for us. So it feels good to go out there and compete knowing there’s a fan base wanting to see us win,” Iona forward, Taylor Bessick said.
Nobody is giving the Gaels a chance in this game. Vegas has Oregon as a 14 point favorite, but Iona has been overlooked all season as just another mediocre team in a mid-major conference.
“We’ve been underdogs the whole season, so no pressure on us. We just had a big chip on our shoulder and we have a chip now. So, we’ll just go play to the best of our ability, and try to get a win,” Cassell Jr. said.
“One newspaper called us the ‘misfits’ and I love that. That’s a great thing to call our team. Misfits are a really good team of young men who work their tail off to make something special happen, and they’re dreaming right now,” head coach Tim Cluess said.
Game day will give them an outlet for that energy. Iona loves to run. In the last 5 years they have the second highest scoring average in NCAA Division I basketball.