Iona’s quest for a third straight MAAC title begins in Albany

Senior guard Deyshonee Much is one of four returning players on Iona.

Ryan McFadden, Sports Editor

 The Iona College men’s basketball team will play its first basketball game in six months on Friday against the University of Albany.

The Gaels, whose won two straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference titles, will go into Albany with a different look from last season. The Gaels will have four players returning from last season with the additions of eight new players.

Despite all the changes to the roster, Iona has been given lofty expectations. The Gaels finished first in the MAAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll, and they’ve been predicted to win the conference title by ESPN, Sports Illustrated and SB Nation. Sports Illustrated even ranked Iona the 133rd best team in college basketball. It’s a ranking Iona head coach Tim Cluess isn’t proud of.

“I don’t think being ranked 133rd is great. That’s one of the lower rankings we have had,” Cluess said. “We have to start to move ourselves up because of what we have done on the court and not what people are projecting.”

Iona has the potential to be much faster this season, but the team’s presence down low will be a question. The Gaels won’t have a Jordan Washington or Taylor Bessick type player manning the paint, which means they will look for graduate transfer TK Edogi to fill that void.

Junior point guard Rickey McGill, who was named to the All-MAAC Preseason Second Team, is expected take another step forward in his progression as a player. McGill went from averaging two points per game as a freshman to 10 points per game and finding a spot in Iona’s starting lineup as a sophomore.

“[McGill] works hard and he’s tough as nails,” Cluess said. “Rickey is making better decisions the more he plays at the point guard position for us. He physically gotten himself bigger and stronger. His shooting has improved even more from last year.”

Albany, who has made it to the NCAA Tournament three times in the last four seasons, finished the 2016-17 season 21-14 with a 10-6 record in the American East, while earning a trip to the conference championship game. The Danes were 11-6 against non-conference opponents and pulled off wins against Penn State and Siena.

Albany’s top two leading scorers David Nichols and Joe Cremo will be returning for their junior season. Nichols led Albany with 17.9 points per game, while Cremo averaged 15.8 points per game and shot 45 percent from the floor.

Albany was picked second in the America East Preseason Poll.

Iona won its last game against Albany, which took place in 2010. The Gaels lead the all-time series 2-0.

The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. tip-off and can be watched on ESPN3 or Watch ESPN.

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