There’s a popular sentiment that No. 3 Oregon (29-5) can reach the Final Four without Chris Boucher, who tore his ACL in a Pac-12 semifinal win over Cal.
Well, Iona has something to say about that. The No. 14 Gaels (22-12) hope to pull off a major upset this Friday at 2 p.m. ET.
“They play very similar to us. They’re just a little bigger and stronger and more athletic at every position,” Iona coach Tim Cluess said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “I think that’s the first key. They like to shoot and drive the ball as well just like us, so I think it’s going to be a game of us not giving them easy shots and getting back in transition – because they’re great in transition. On our end, we have to do a better job boxing out and not giving them second shots and then sharing the ball and making shots. If we have a good open one quickly, take it. If not, we have to be a little bit patient and make sure we’re taking good ones and not being rushed by them.”
As for Boucher, Cluess feels bad whenever a team loses one of its players, especially one of its best players. But ultimately, he has to focus on getting his guys ready for the Ducks.
“Honestly, I don’t worry about it,” Cluess said. “All of us have players banged up that may or may not play in these games at this time of the year, and I know he’s a big piece for them, so I feel for their team and the young men because he put his whole time and effort into it and they were playing at such a high level. But it is what it is. In basketball, you make adjustments and you go out there and you play against whoever’s on the court and try to find a way to win.”
Iona, which plays at a fast pace, has six players averaging at least 9.3 points per game. Senior forward Jordan Washington leads the team with 17.9 points and 7.9 rebounds, while sophomore guard Rickey McGill is averaging 10.8 points and 5.2 assists.
The Gaels certainly aren’t the best defensive team in the country, but stats only tell part of the story.
“These guys have gotten better as the year went on,” Cluess said. “I thought we defended very well in the MAC Tournament. But part of the reality that people don’t understand unless you really know basketball is when you play us, there’s a lot more possessions in the game because of the speed at which we play. So if you’re going to have six to 10 more possessions and a team shoots 40 percent, they’re going to get four or five more points than average. So if you understand that and do the math, we’re kind of right there with most teams. The area we have to clean up is second shots. We are small, so boxing out and defending is going to be a big key to this game.”