NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. - The Iona Gaels men’s basketball team took their first steps toward the Final Four on Tuesday, taking off from New Rochelle for a matchup against the fourth-seeded Iowa State Cyclones in the first round of the NCAA Championship tournament.
It was a sea of crimson and gold in front of Hynes Hall on Tuesday afternoon, as the 14th-seeded Gaels gathered up their gear, boarded a bus and took the trek to the Pepsi Center in Denver, where they will look to be this year’s “Cinderella story.”
Iona will square off against Iowa State at 2 p.m. on Thursday, March 17 at the Pepsi Center in Denver. The game will be aired on TBS nationally.
A former standout from Section 1, 6-foot-1 guard Rickey McGill of Spring Valley, has made an impact as a freshman for the Gaels. He is averaging 10 minutes played and 2.9 points scored per game.
Although they shocked some by claiming the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference over Monmouth University last week, the big stage is nothing new for Iona and Head Coach Tim Cluess, who will be returning to the Big Dance for the third time in five years.
“It’s always special and I can’t wait to get there with our guys and play, and I know our guys are excited to get out there too,” he said before boarding one of two busses. “There is nothing better than when you’re a coach, and you love your players, and your players love to play.”
The men and women’s - they also won their conference and will face second-seeded Maryland in their tournament - basketball teams have been the talk of the campus, as the community eyes an upset of an Iowa State team that went 10-8 in the toughest conference in the country.
“It’s exciting, it’s fun, it brings a certain energy to all of us,” Iona junior Steve Aiello said while wishing the team off to Denver on Tuesday. “I think it’s safe to say that at 2:00 (p.m.) on Thursday, all eyes will be on the game.”
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