After passing the season’s first test with ease, Florida State basketball now faces a much stiffer challenge. The Iona Gaels are one of the most consistent programs on the eastern seaboard. In six years at the helm, head coach Tim Cluess has averaged over 23 wins a season and guided his team to three NCAA Tournament appearances.
Last year’s MAAC champions, the Gaels capped their run through the conference tournament with a dramatic win over Monmouth, and then nearly upset Iowa State in the first round of the NCAAT.
Now they’re tipping off their season with a road trip to Tallahassee.
Iona only returns two starters, but both are All-Conference performers. Senior Jordan Washington is on the short list for preseason conference Player of the Year. Last season he was the 2nd best offensive rebounder in the nation, and also No. 2 in drawing 9.2 fouls per 40 minutes. At 6-8 he’s a big man on Iona’s relatively small roster, and Terance Mann, Jonathan Isaac, and Phil Cofer will have their hands full trying to deal with him on the interior in Iona’s fast paced offense. Washington’s weakness is that he’s foul prone, so look for FSU to go right at him.
The other returning starter - 6-5 junior Deyshonee Much - is a catch-and-shoot wing who made 45% of his shots last year from beyond the arc.
Iona also features combo guard Sam Cassell Jr., who transferred from Connecticut for his final season of eligibility.
The Gaels play at one of the most hectic paces in college basketball, so it should be an exciting game. They take lots of 3s, they move the ball, and they’ll go deep into their bench. This should have an FSU-UNC type tempo.
In game No. 3 last year, the Seminoles lost to Hofstra, and this is the Hofstra game of the current season. Can Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes come out with the necessary focus? Will the new players understand how athletic and talented players from a smaller school actually are? Can FSU’s depth and size wear down an opponent which is used to running other teams out of the gym?
This should be a great test for FSU, and give the fans a good barometer for what to expect in the next couple of months.
A win here is a good win. The score doesn’t matter. Just get the win.
The game tips Tuesday at 7 PM from the Tuck, and will be broadcast on the ACC Digital Network.