Iona has already clinched the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title, so should we expect the Gaels to throttle back in Friday's college basketball odds battle against Manhattan?
They have met in each of the last two Metro Atlantic Conference Championship Games, and we could see that streak grow to three when the league converges on Albany to begin this year's event next week. If so, we know it will be the Iona Gaels carrying the No. 1 seed into that matchup against the Manhattan Jaspers.
Before we get to that point, however, there's the little matter of one final regular season clash between Manhattan and Iona, one that has very little consequence for the Gaels but carries huge implications for the Jaspers. Friday's fracas in New Rochelle is getting prime-time treatment from ESPN2 with a 7 PM (ET) broadcast time scheduled on The Deuce.
Iona was sent out -9, but enough early action came in on Manhattan to drive the NCAA basketball odds down to -7½ at most sports books.
Quick Rematch Finds Iona Aiming At Season Sweep
Manhattan got the best of Iona in last year's MAAC Championship, taking a 71-68 decision to just cover the two points Jasper backers gave up. That came after the teams split two regular season battles, each winning at home while the Gaels covered each time.
Iona posted a 3-point win over Manhattan for the league crown a season earlier, not quite having enough to beat the -4 spread the Gaels were asked to on the NCAA basketball odds. That also came after a regular season split, the home sides coming out on top once again though it was Manhattan with the spread-beaters in those contests.
The Gaels are in position for their first sweep of the Jaspers since the 2010-11 campaign after pulling off yet another 3-point win in the Big Apple just two weeks ago. Iona held off a late Manhattan push for the 70-67 triumph as 2 point road chalk, giving the Gaels a 47-39 advantage over the course of the series.
Jaspers in Dogfight For No. 2 Seed In MAAC
Manhattan (15-12 straight up, 13-13 against the spread) is bunched along with Rider and Monmouth for second place in the MAAC, that trio separated by just two games presently. Rider toppled Monmouth last night to take control of the race for the No. 2 seed in the conference, and owns the tiebreaker over Steve Masiello's team if the Broncs and Jaspers end knotted with each other.
The Jaspers hit the floor Friday having won three consecutive games, the last two on the road with covers as short chalk at Siena and Marist. They were helped along by the ineptness of both the Saints and Red Foxes who combined to connect on just 7-of-34 shots from beyond the arc, compared to Iona netting 11-of-18 from 3-point range vs. Manhattan two weeks ago.
Gaels Can End Regular Season On 12-Game Run
It has been a busy few weeks for Iona (23-6 SU, 12-15 ATS) with Friday's matchup the eighth in 22 days for the Gaels. The congested slate was due in part to weather postponing one of their games early in February, but the extra workload hasn't slowed Tim Cluess' charges who have strong together 10-straight victories.
Name any offensive category, and chances are you'll find the Gaels at the top of the list in conference play. Iona is first in scoring (77.3 ppg), field goal percentage (47.0%) and 3-point shooting (40.0%), plus tops in assist/turnover ratio (1.27).
It would appear most college basketball bettors believe Iona will simply go through the motions this evening with the conference crown already wrapped up, and I'm inclined to believe that. But a safer wager might be on the total, which has gone 'under' the last five meetings. That's the direction for my free college basketball pick as well, assuming the number falls in line with recent totals.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Manhattan-Iona Under at BetOnline