Next up for Duke is Iona, and while it’s a 15/2 matchup, Iona presents some challenges. First, the Gaels like to run and that’s a great way to avoid Duke’s zone - just shoot before everyone is down court.
Secondly though, Iona has a bunch of guys who have been to the NCAA tournament before so there’s a certain advantage there.
This is Iona’s third year in a row in the Big Dance and remember that they have to win their conference to get in. That’s a consistent level of excellence.
And coach Tim Cluess is a solid motivator, telling his team not to “die wondering.”
As we’ve discussed previously this week, Duke is bigger and more athletic, a point Cluess conceded, saying “talent is talent.”
But we all know that while talent is talent, talent’s not everything.
As much as any game, basketball is about sticking together and the better you know each other the easier it is to do.
Iona does it well enough to have given Syracuse and Rhode tight games.
Last year, Iona lost to a tough #3 seeded Oregon squad 93-77 in the NCAAs and the year before lost to #4 seed Iowa State 94-81.
Cluess is right - they won’t be scared of Duke.
However, confidence doesn’t mean you should talk smack either. Lots of teams have gotten in trouble for saying stupid stuff over the years. UNC’s Sam Perkins irritated Georgia by say he din’t know what conference the Bulldogs were in. He found out pretty quickly.
UNLV’s Stacy Augmon annoyed Duke by saying that after couple of steals and dunks the Blue Devils would fold.
In 1978, the Penn coach called Duke “a bunch of elephants.”
You could go on.
Has Iona stepped into this trap?
Ricky McGill may have when he said this: “The tripping stuff, I’m not really a big fan of that. If he wants to start tripping then we can turn it into a tripping match. But I’m not really getting into that.”
That’s not as stupid as Michigan’s kids saying that Duke “stole our championship” right before coming to Cameron, but it’s not very bright.
If you’re playing a team with five or more first-round picks, what you really want to do it to lull them to sleep. Then, when you hit them with maximum intensity, they have to match it.
Giving them a head start is probably not the best idea when they have markedly better talent, not least of all Allen, who is capable of starting a a game with a bucket of three pointers and a few steals.