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Iona’s ‘speed advantage’ on BYU might not come to pass


Mike Miller

Iona’s delighted by its First Four opponent. Not only does BYU no longer have Jimmer Fredette – a relief to any defense – but BYU likes to play fast.

That’s music to the Gaels’ ears.

Iona (25-7) is a team that loves to run and score. Defense isn’t really a priority (thus accounting for a pair of blown 18-point leads during MAAC play), so playing a team that wants to do the same is a delight. Junior guard Momo Jones, an Arizona transfer who’s played the Cougars before, said as much.

“With BYU playing a fast-paced game - and, again, I’ve played against them twice - I don’t think they play nearly as fast as we do,” Jones said. “I think we still have a speed advantage on them. If we can do what we do every day and maintain our focus, we’ll be OK.”

Actually, the Cougars (25-8) play a smidge faster than Iona. They’ve averaged 72.5 possessions a game this season, higher than the Gaels’ 70.5 possessions a game. (Both are among the 25 fastest D-I teams.) Also, while the Cougars like to run, the defense is much more efficient than the offense. Without Fredette, their shooting percentages are down a bit and their turnovers are up.

So who has the edge? Oddmakers made BYU a 2-point favorite, while other projections have them winning by the slimmest of margins. When they tip off Tuesday night at roughly 7:10 p.m. on truTV, perhaps the size advantage will be the difference. No Gael is listed as bigger than 6-7. BYU has four players and two starters bigger than that.

“They’re great players. They’re big, strong dudes. They know how to play. They know how to use their bodies,” BYU center Brandon Davies. “It’s going to be a battle regardless of their height.”

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.