Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino has done a terrific job at Iona, but Friday could be his final game there as there are multiple reports that Pitino will leave to take over at St. John’s. The No. 13 Gaels are 9.5-point underdogs for their first-round NCAA Tournament game against No. 4 UConn. Let’s get to the action by checking out the college basketball betting odds for this game.
No. 13 Iona vs. No. 4 UConn Game Info | March Madness Lines
How to Bet Iona vs. UConn NCAA Basketball Odds & TV Info
When: Friday, 4:30 PM ET
Where: MVP Arena, Albany, NY
Opening NCAAB Lines: UConn -9.5 (total 140.5)
Why Bet on Iona?
Rumors swirling around Iona coach Rick Pitino’s connection to St. John’s have not been a distraction as the Gaels prepare for an NCAA men’s tournament matchup against Connecticut, Pitino said Thursday. After a controversial end to his tenure at Louisville, a second tournament bid in three years and this season’s 27-7 record have made Pitino one of top contenders for the opening at St. John’s, which recently fired coach Mike Anderson.
“My players, it’s really not a distraction at all,” said Pitino. “I’ve always taken it as a compliment. But I never pay attention to it. We never talk about it. The players expect everything that I have as a coach to try and win this game. It’s all about Iona.”
Iona (27-7) beat Marist 76-55 in the MAAC Tournament title game last Saturday to earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, the Gaels’ 14th straight win. They led wire-to-wire. Junior Daniss Jenkins was named the MAAC Championship’s most outstanding performer as he had 27 points with a career-best six three-pointers in the win. Fellow All-Tournament Team member Walter Clayton Jr. posted 17 points, adding six rebounds and four assists. Iona’s third All-Tourney member was junior Nelly Junior Joseph, whose nine point, 11-rebound performance was critical in the Gaels’ second half success. He added three assists, four blocks and two steals.
Player of the Year Clayton Jr. (16.9 PPG, 44% from beyond the arc) and all-MAAC first-teamer Junior Joseph carried the Gaels to a 27-win season. The Gaels limit the 3-point line as well as anyone in the country, paced by the league’s co-defensive player of the year Berrick JeanLouis. Iona’s defense focuses so heavily on taking away the perimeter that it is subject to lapses in the paint. In most of its early-season losses, Iona gave up too many offensive rebounds and allowed teams plenty of free throw opportunities.
The 14 straight wins is the third longest winning streak in program history behind 15 in 1997-98 and 17 in 1979-80. The team’s 27 overall wins matches the second highest single-season total from 1997-98 and stands two behind the school record 29 in 1979-80.
Iona and UConn, located less than 120 miles apart in the Northeast, have faced each other on five previous occasions, with UConn holding a 4-1 advantage. Iona’s lone win came on the road on December 29, 1994. It will be the second postseason meeting between the two teams following the Huskies’ 71-66 win in the 1997 National Invitation Tournament.
Friday’s game will take place in a familiar venue for the Gaels, MVP Arena in Albany. The home of MAAC rival Siena, Iona will play its 75th all-time game in the building. The Maroon & Gold are 44-30 all-time including 28-13 in the MAAC Championship, capturing seven of its 14 MAAC titles. Currently on a 14-game winning streak, the venue is the site of the Gaels last loss on Jan. 27 against the Saints.
Why Bet on UConn?
The Huskies (25-8) had their six-game winning streak snapped last Friday in a 70-68 loss to Marquette in the Big East Tournament semifinals – MU would go on to win the tournament. The top-seeded Golden Eagles opened a four-point lead on a 3-pointer by Olivier-Maxence Prosper with 3:39 left and then held on.
UConn had a chance to tie or win in the final 10 seconds, but coach Dan Hurley elected not to call a timeout as his team brought the ball across halfcourt. Jordan Hawkins missed badly on a contested, desperation 3 at the buzzer. Adama Sanogo had 19 points and 11 rebounds to pace the Huskies.
For the second straight season, Sanogo has been named one of five finalists for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year award. Named after the 1995 Hall of Famer and three-time NCAA champion, the annual award, in its ninth year, recognizes the top center in Division I men’s basketball. Sanogo, the UConn co-captain, leads the Huskies in both scoring (16.7) and rebounding (7.2) and is shooting .592 overall. Counting all games, he is the leading scorer in the Big East and was named a First Team All-Big East selection for the second straight year.
UConn’s other star is Hawkins, who is averaging 16.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. He has 13 20-point games this year, including a team-high 31 against St. John’s on Jan. 15. He is shooting .405 overall, .368 from three-point range and .879 from the foul line. He also was named First-Team All-Big East.
UConn will be making its 36th NCAA Tournament appearance and owns an overall 59-32 record in the tournament, with four National Championships, five trips to the Final Four, 11 Elite Eights, and 17 Sweet 16s. Of the Huskies’ four national titles, three came as West Region champions.
It is the third straight NCAA appearance for UConn, a feat it hadn’t accomplished since 2004, 2005, and 2006. Since the seeding process began (1979), the Huskies have only been a No. 4 seed once, in 2008. Wins over Alabama, Oregon, Iowa State, Creighton and Marquette suggest this program can compete with any team in the field. Coach Dan Hurley’s team is ranked top-15 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency.
- Gaels are 10-3 ATS in their last 13 games overall.
- Gaels are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games vs. a team with a winning straight up record.
- Gaels are 2-6 ATS in their last 8 NCAA Tournament games.
- Huskies are 16-6 ATS in their last 22 NCAA Tournament games.
- Huskies are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 games overall.
UConn 75, Iona 66
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