Iona senior guard Sean Armand isn’t shy about expressing his plans for the Gaels’ Tuesday night tilt at No. 2 Kansas.
“Yes, I’m going into the game expecting to win, just like every other game we play,” the Brooklyn native told SNY.tv Monday.
You might wonder how Iona, a two-time NCAA Tournament qualifier out of the MAAC, came to play Kansas, a perennial Final Four contender featuring the projected No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft in Andrew Wiggins.
The answer is that Iona President Dr. Joseph E. Nyre is an alumnus of Kansas who did his graduate work there.
“I’m pleased to be returning to my alma mater and to Lawrence with the Iona Gaels,” President Nyre said in a statement. “Basketball is so much a part of the fabric of both KU and Iona, and I’m looking forward to sharing Iona with Kansas and Kansas with Iona.”
Iona is 1-1 and actually has several interesting games coming up. After the visit to Kansas, the Gaels host new A-10 member George Mason (3-0) on Saturday before visiting coach Joe Dooley and Florida Gulf Coast on Dec. 1.
“[Playing Kansas] is an opportunity to play one of the best programs in the country and [gain] experience for our guys and use it as a measuring stick for where we have to be, and find out a lot about our strengths and weaknesses and help develop for the rest of the season,” Iona coach Tim Cluess said.
It should also help in recruiting.
“It’s a good recruiting tool when we play teams of this caliber to bring players to our program so that we can tell them in the non-conference schedule we’re going to play high-level teams,” Cluess said.
As for Wiggins, Cluess said it would be a team effort to guard the 6-foot-8 Canadian sensation, who is averaging 19 points and 5.5 rebounds for the Jayhawks (2-0).
“We’ll do different things and different combinations on him, to be honest with you, so it’s not just going to be one person’s responsibility from the get go,” Cluess said. “We’ll play some zone, we’ll play some man, we’ll mix it up.”
Cluess pointed out that Kansas has several future pros on its roster, with freshmen Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid also considered potential one-and-dones.
“I think their whole team’s dangerous, not just Wiggins,” Cluess said.
And what if Iona is able to pull off the upset?
“I mean we’re going in the game just trying to get a ‘W,’ so my mindset is not to try to keep it close,” Armand said. “It’s to play a good, hard game and see what happens. And then if we will win it will be a great win for the school and the program. Just look forward and hopefully that will boost everybody’s confidence.”
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.