Iona vs Siena Odds & Predictions | Friday NCAAB Betting Preview (Jan. 27)
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: The Siena Saints men’s basketball team.
Iona vs Siena Odds
-115o / -105u
-115o / -105u
I'm not sure how many die-hard MAAC fans there are in the world, but as one of them, I've been excited about this game since November.
I knew this Siena team was slightly different once Javian McCollum and Jackson Stormo took the court against Holy Cross on opening night. The Saints followed up with wins over Florida State and Seton Hall.
Heading into Friday night, Siena has a half-game lead on Iona in the conference standings.
That said, Iona is still the class of the conference and the team to beat. Rick Pitino isn't ready to give up the throne yet.
So, there's a lot to fight for on Friday night in Albany, and the Gaels are laying points on the road.
While Iona boasts the highest offensive efficiency in the MAAC, it still starts on the defensive end for the Gaels.
Specifically with Nelly Junior Joseph, who is likely the MAAC's best two-way forward. Feel free to discuss his gaudy offensive statistics (15.7 PPG, 55.7 FG%, 8.7 RPG), but his combination of active defense and rim protection is the foundation of the Pitino-era Gaels.
Image credit: CBB Analytics
Iona has finished second in the MAAC in defensive efficiency three years running, but the Gaels are also the clubhouse leaders in eFG% allowed (46.3%).
Offensively, the Gales are similarly dangerous. Pitino likes to say he emulates Mark Few's Gonzaga squad, but you could also make comparisons to Fran McCaffery's Iowa teams.
The Gaels are an up-tempo, rim-pressuring offense. They push the ball in transition while utilizing pick-and-roll and post-up sets in the half-court.
Altogether, Iona is the best rim-scoring team in the MAAC.
I credit Pitino, who put together a perfect backcourt for this type of play. Pacific transfer Daniss Jenkins has become the MAAC's second-best player behind Junior Joseph, and he's been perfectly paired with second-year Iona guard Walter Clayton.
The Jenkins-Clayton backcourt impressively runs the complex, high-tempo offense while seldom turning the ball over. Iona is tops in the MAAC in offensive turnover rate and 14th nationally.
Siena's defense reminds me of the Randy Bennett Saint Mary's scheme, which Hawaii has adopted. The Saints switch most ball screens, but always drop Stormo, resulting in many paint-funneling opportunities while keeping 3-point shooters off the line.
The result is Siena allows the second-lowest 3-point rate in the country, but the highest rim rate. However, the Saints have been rather effective at protecting the rim, thanks to Stormo.
Image credit: CBB Analytics
Siena has plenty of holes on defense, but the Saints are the best defensive rebounding team in the MAAC and it's led to a 7-2 league record.
Offensively, Siena is similar to Iona, but the Saints are a lite version of Iona. The Saints are a rim-pressuring offense, but are much less efficient at the rim.
That said, the Saints still know how to get downhill. They run a lot of cutting and off-screen sets, and are easily the conference's best post-up offense.
Siena doesn't space the floor well, so open looks don't come around often. But this is the best shot-making team in the conference, per ShotQuality, so the Saints' catch-and-shoot numbers are uber-efficient.
Iona vs Siena Predictions & Betting Pick
The big problem in this game is McCollum is still day-to-day with a back injury. At the time of this writing, he's listed as "questionable" for Friday night.
The Saints adjusted offensive efficiency mark drops over 10 points without McCollum on the floor, and everything breaks down offensively without his shot creation.
If McCollum is healthy, I like Siena's chances as a home dog.
It's a good situational spot for Siena as the Saints are looking to bounce back after a loss to Fairfield. Meanwhile, the Gaels are due for a letdown game after an overtime win at Manhattan.
Ultimately, I expect both offenses to drive at the rim relentlessly and both defenses to disrupt those efforts. Everyone will play drop coverage, and both coaches will see who comes out unscathed.
I'm fine playing a two-possession home dog with that kind of game script, especially because Siena picked off Iona at home last season and kept it within three the year before.
Again, the handicap is entirely dependent on McCollum's status. If the point guard is good to go, bet on Siena. Otherwise, stay away.
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