Gaels to give Cylcones all they can handle

Gaels to give Cyclones all they can handle

If you like your buckets in bunches, there may be no better NCAA tournament offering than Thursday afternoon’s Iona-Iowa State track meet.

Yes, we’ve only just begun the Big Dance. Yet these high-octane attacks are a rare breed indeed. The Cyclones tally 82 points a contest, while the Gaels similarly torched nets across the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

The oddmakers at online sports book BetDSI have therefore issued a whopping over/under total of 167, picking ISU (21-11) as an 8-point favorite in the Mile High City. Could the thin air actually present the only containment plan for such rollicking offenses?

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Surprisingly, signs of vulnerability do exist. Fourth-seeded Iowa State enters with a two-game losing streak, and guard Naz Long’s hip injury reduces Steve Prohm’s rotation to seven student-athletes. Facilitator Monte Morris (6.9 assists per tilt) also continues to battle a right shoulder ailment he sustained in the regular-season finale against Oklahoma.

Translation: more heavy lifting for Georges Niang. The Cyclones’ first two-time All-American, however, finally faces some competition in the best-individual-talent-on-the-floor department. Iona senior A.J. English is the lone player in Division I who averages more than 20 points, five rebounds and five assists.

That arsenal was on full display as the Gaels (22-10) blew past Monmouth in last week’s MAAC title tilt. English could easily find himself embroiled in a mano-a-mano duel with Niang down the stretch of today’s Midwest Region action, but Iona will benefit most from ambushing depth-challenged ISU as a unit. The Big 12 representative’s athleticism should still be enough to move on, though by a razor-thin margin.

THURSDAY NCAA FREE PICK: IONA +8

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