Midwest Region: Iona vs North Carolina Prediction
Iona vs North Carolina Preview
Will this be the year another 16-seed does the improbable and takes down a 1-seed? Not likely, especially in this matchup between the Iona Gaels (17-15) and the North Carolina Tar Heels (27-6). I say this with the utmost confidence because I have witnessed the MAAC up-close and personal this season (and the previous four years). As a credentialed member of the MAAC, the conference as a whole was downright terrible this season.
Preseason favorites Rider and Canisius sorely disappointed failing to escape the quarterfinals and semifinals of the MAAC Tournament, respectively.
That left Iona to continue their ‘domination’ of the MAAC–at least in terms of the Tournament. For the fourth consecutive year the Gaels represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s a great opportunity to play against one of the best teams in the country,” Gaels coach Tim Cluess said. “I got to watch them on TV the other night against Duke, and we look forward to the challenge.”
North Carolina is in its 50th NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels are a No. 1 regional seed for a record 17th time.
“It’s special to be a No. 1 seed,” coach Roy Williams said. “The most special thing is to see the way our kids reacted when they saw our name as a No. 1 seed, and they put North Carolina up there. I just love the way they were genuinely excited. … We’re playing in the NCAA Tournament, and people think we’ve had a pretty good year.”
Iona has received some unlucky draws the past two years–obviously matching up with NC and last year, it was a first-round meeting with Duke.
“You’ve got to be better for two hours, and everything has to break your way,” Cluess said. “You’ve got to believe you have a chance when it’s March. That’s what makes basketball fun.
“(North Carolina is) a loaded team, a great basketball team, coached extremely well, that we obviously know. Size-wise they’re going to be a challenge. Speed-wise they’re a challenge.”
North Carolina has tangled with elite teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference, including three meetings in barely more than a three-week span against Duke, which was dubbed the NCAA Tournament’s overall No. 1 seed. The Tar Heels won two of those matchups, though fell by one point in the ACC tournament semifinal last Friday.
But the Tar Heels have only two losses in the last 17 games.
“We’ve enjoyed some good moments, and we’ve had some difficult ones,” Williams said. “But at the same time, I love the excitement.”
North Carolina is 3-1 all-time against Iona, winning the last meeting in November 2007 as part of the Las Vegas Invitational. This is the first clash in the NCAA Tournament.
The Iona-North Carolina winner goes against the Utah State-Washington winner in Sunday’s second round.
LINE: -23.5 North Carolina
Dan’s Bet: Over 166
Bracket Pick: North Carolina
Score Prediction: North Carolina 110 Iona 80