Seven-straight wins. A first-place standing in the MAAC. A player who goes by the nickname Optimus Prime. Iona is coming to the Dome tomorrow to play Syracuse and I think me and Mr. Horse are on the same page with this one.
The Transformer in question is Gaels' forward Mike Glover. Like his robot-in-disguise counterpart, Glover commands respect on the court and puts up the data to back it up.
Iona's Mike Glover is more than pretty good. Through the first 10 games of his Division I basketball career, the 6-foot-7, 215-pound forward -- the younger brother of former St. John's player Anthony Glover -- is averaging 22.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game for the Gaels. His scoring averages ranks him No. 15 in the country.
Iona's first-year head coach, Tim Cluess, admitted he is a little surprised at how well Glover has played right out of the gate. "I thought he had it in him, but I thought it would take longer for him to start playing at that level," Cluess said. "Because he had been away from a high level of competition for a while."
One way or another, Syracuse was going to play Glover. He started his career at Seton Hall but was ruled ineligible over academic issues at his high school. He worked his way from a Brooklyn junior college to the College of Eastern Utah before finally coming to Iona.
If Glover is Optimus, then Rick Jackson is going to have to play the role of Megatron. Glover and Jackson are both putting up bigtime numbers but Glover has been on a real tear recently, grabbing 39 points and 14 rebounds versus Canisius, and 30 points and 11 rebounds versus Niagara. Fab Melo may or may not play and even if he does he won't be able to handle Glover. This one's all about Rick.
It's not just about Glover, however. He's got the kind of support staff needed if Iona wants to become a giant-killer.
Guards Jermel Jenkins and Kyle Smyth are each shooting better than 40 percent from three-point range. Point guard Scott Machado is a get-up-and-go assist machine with a penchant for forcing turnovers. Forward Alejo Rodriguez is an outstanding shot-blocker and a 62 percent FG shooter.
"Iona's a very good team and they're in for a special year," [Long Island coach Jim] Ferry said. "They have a lot of pieces and a lot of talented offensive players. It's a hard team to keep down."
The last time these two team met was also the first time, a 63-61 victory for Syracuse in the first round of the 1998 NCAA tournament. If not for a Marius Janulis three with 1.2 seconds left in the game, we might be talking about this one as a vengeance opportunity. As-is, it'll just have to be a showdown between the two-winningest basketball programs in New York State Division 1.
By the way, if this lady sits down next to you at the game, CHECK YOUR WALLET! But don't let her see you checking your wallet. Be cool about it...