The Iona Gaels look to be a lock to win the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference once again in 2022.
Everybody in college basketball knew it wouldn’t take long for 69 year-old Rick Pitino to establish the Iona Gaels as the premier program in the MAAC.
In just his first season in New Rochelle, NY, Pitino took Iona to the NCAA tournament after an impressive 12-6 campaign (that also saw many of their games cancelled due to Covid) before they eventually lost to Alabama 68-55 in the opening round of March Madness.
Fast forward to year-two under Pitino and Iona (14-3) has established themselves as one of the best mid-major programs in college basketball who could see their way into the AP Top 25 at some point before March.
The Gaels avenged their NCAA tournament loss to Alabama by beating the Crimson Tide 72-68 back on November 25th and they also have impressive wins over the likes of Harvard, Liberty, North Alabama and Appalachian State. Iona’s only three losses have come against Kansas, Belmont and Saint Louis who are quality programs.
In their most recent win, 78-55 over Niagara on Sunday, Iona never trailed in the game which was their second straight wire-to-wire win as they improved to a perfect 6-0 in MAAC league play and 7-0 at home.
On the floor, Iona’s leading scorer is 24 year-old grad transfer guard Tyson Jolly who is averaging 14.9 points per game. Jolly was originally a four-star recruit out of high school who spent the past two seasons at SMU where he was an AAC All-Conference selection in 2019-20.
They also returned Nelly Junior Joseph a 6-foot-9 forward who is second on the Gaels in scoring with 13.6 points per game after an impressive freshman campaign where he was named MAAC Rookie of the Year.
After watching most of their MAAC opponents in the early part of the 2021-22 season, there doesn’t appear to be a single team capable of giving Iona a run for their money and the Gaels should find one of the easier paths to March Madness of any school in the NCAA.
With such an impressive start to Iona’s second season under Pitino, its only a matter of time of before a major conference school comes calling for him. The only question that remains, is just how deep of a tournament run can Iona make in 2022.
With a loaded group of mature players, Iona could be this year’s Loyola-Chicago and could see their way into a very deep run come March.