Iona vs. Manhattan Best MAAC NCAA Basketball Picks & Preview

Willie Bee

Friday, February 26, 2016 1:00 PM UTC

Friday, Feb. 26, 2016 1:00 PM UTC

The Friday night NCAA basketball odds have established Iona a road favorite at Manhattan, and it's a key game for the Gaels if they're going to catch Monmouth in the MAAC.

The marathon part of the 2015-16 campaign reaches its conclusion this weekend with the end of the regular season in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. After that comes the sprint, better known as the MAAC Tournament, and it's a strange bracket the conference is trying out this year.

Still very much in the mix for the No. 1 seed in that event, the Iona Gaels will be making their final road trip on the fixture when they make the short commute from New Rochelle to Riverdale for a Friday encounter with the Manhattan Jaspers. The matchup will be part of ESPNU's evening lineup with the tip-off coming a little past 7 PM (ET). Iona is 6 point chalk on the morning line with 5Dimes carrying 150 for the total.

What sets the MAAC Tournament apart from others is a change implemented last May that will split the four quarterfinal games in both the men's and women's events. The tourney still opens with the 6-11 seeds colliding in the first rounds on Thursday, and the 1-2 seeds taking on the 8/9 and 7/10 seeds on Friday. Assuming the Nos. 1 and 2 advance, they will have Saturday off while the 3-4-5 seeds finally get in on the fun.

Iona and Monmouth have already locked up the 1-2 seeds, the Gaels trailing the Hawks by just a game entering the final weekend. Monmouth gets to close out at home vs. Rider and Niagara, two teams that are set to play an opening round contest. If the Gaels have any chance of catching the Hawks for at least a share of the regular season title, they must win tonight and again Sunday at home vs. Canisius.


Jaspers Coming Off Horrible Offensive Effort
Most fans are only aware of the MAAC this year because of the choreographed celebrations by the Monmouth bench. You can count Iona (17-10 straight up, 12-13-1 against the spread) head coach Tim Cluess as one person who doesn't like the shenanigans, and his recent comments -- "they're not basketball players" -- will definitely add fuel to the fire should the Gaels and Hawks square off  for the tourney title.

Thos two teams have exchanged road victories over each other in 2016, Iona's 83-67 victory last Friday as 5½ point underdogs on the NCAA basketball odds helping the Gaels to remain in the race for the regular season crown. Iona followed that with an 87-81 win at Siena on Monday, giving the Gaels their seventh dubya in eight tries, each triumph sending college basketball bettors back to the pay window.

A level 9-9 in conference play, Manhattan (12-15 SU, 12-12 ATS) has been in a bit of a rut with three setbacks its last four trips to the hardwood. Two of the losses for Steve Masiello's lads in that stretch came to St. Peter's, first on the road as small underdogs which the Jaspers covered and again three days ago at home as small chalk.

Manhattan shooters suffered a season-low performance in Tuesday's defeat, connecting on just 15-of-57 from the field (26%) and 3-of-23 from 3-point range (13%). The Jaspers rank 266th in the country averaging 68.4 PPG and 238th in field goal percentage (42.4%).


Gaels on 4-Game Streak Vs. Jaspers
Iona and Manhattan are certainly no strangers to each other after colliding in the last three MAAC Championship Games. The Gaels won two of those, and also prevailed in late-January, 70-56, when the schools met for the first time this year. The final margin was plenty for Iona backers to cash their -11 tickets and the total stayed well 'under' a 155½ point mark, the seventh low-side winner in the last eight meetings.

My free NCAA basketball pick is going to ride that trend with a play on the 'under.'

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Under 150 
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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