Iona has high expectations

Iona was declared the preseason favorite to win the MAAC last week and likely would have been the popular pick even if Arizona transfer Lamont "MoMo" Jones had not at that point already have been declared immediately eligible.

Jones certainly gives the Gaels another dimension at guard, but they were already loaded with MAAC preseason player of the year Mike Glover and assists machine Scott Machado. The scary part for Iona's opponents is just how much those two improved in the offseason.

Glover was already one of the nation's top returning scorers averaging 18.4 points, and the senior forward got better, according to coach Tim Cluess.

"I think Mike added a lot of perimeter skills to his game," Cluess said Tuesday. "His shot has gotten a lot better. He's putting the ball on the floor to drive it much better than he was a year ago. Put on about seven to 10 pounds of muscle as well. I think he'll be a tougher, more durable player than he was last year. We'll use him in the inside-out role not strictly on the blocks anymore because he has improved that part of his game."

Machado is another senior who improved and will now share a backcourt with Jones.

"To be honest, I think Scott is a much better player this year than he was a year ago," Cluess said. "We asked him to drop some weight. He lost about 12 pounds. Worked on his shot as well as some quickness. Playing at a whole 'nother level."

So Iona is going to be a tough team to play this season and a threat in March. By now, it's no longer one of college basketball's best-kept secrets.