Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#6215 Iona vs.
#6216 Belmont
Friday, November 26, 2021 at 6:30pm EST
Written by Chris King

It’s a semifinal matchup on the college hardwood in the Sunshine State as the MAAC takes on the OVC in the ESPN Events Invitational. The Iona Gaels are the “road” team as they take on the Belmont Bruins Friday night. Iona comes in off a 72-68 upset of #10 Alabama in their previous contest, which came in the opening round, Thursday afternoon. Belmont held off Drake 74-69 in their first-round clash Thursday night the last time they took the floor. This marks the first time that the two programs have taken the floor as Division I programs.

Iona Gaels Look to Build Off Upset Win

Iona stunned #10 Alabama in their first-round matchup of this tournament Thursday, marking the first time that a team from the MAAC beat a top-10 team in the history of the conference. The Gaels improved to 6-0 on the season with the victory and look to reach the title game with a triumph here. Against Alabama, Iona trailed by four at the half and by eight in the second half before getting things going. The Gaels were down five with 7:35 to play but went on a 12-2 run over the next four-plus minutes to take a 64-59 advantage with 3:23 to play. Iona knocked down their free throws down the stretch to salt away the win. The Gaels shot 44.1% from the floor, including four of 21 from three-point range, and went 16 of 21 at the line compared to Alabama’s 13 of 25. Walter Clayton Jr. led Iona with 15 points off the bench in the win.

The Gaels are a decent offensive attack as they are 151st in the nation in scoring offense with an average of 74 points per game. Iona is 135th in rebounding with 34.8 boards a contest and 90th in assists by dishing out 14.7 dimes a night. The Gaels are slightly above average defensively as they are 137th in scoring defense by allowing 66.2 points a contest. Nelly Junior Joseph leads the team with 16.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per contest on the year. Tyson Jolly (15.5 points), Dylan van Eyck (10.7 points, five rebounds) and Quinn Slazinski (10.8 points) are good secondary scoring options. Elijah Joiner, Ryan Myers, Berrick JeanLouis, Walter Clayton Jr. and Jordan Wildy are needed to contribute on both ends for the Gaels. Iona shoots just 42.9% from the floor as a team this season. The Gaels knock down 6.2 triples a night while shooting 32.2% from long range. Iona is a mediocre team at the free-throw line as they convert 69.7% of their attempts this season.

Belmont Bruins Seeking Berth in Championship Game

Belmont took care of business in crunch time against Drake to punch their ticket to the semifinals. The Bruins improved to 4-2 with the victory and seek to punch their ticket to the title game of the tournament by prevailing here. Against Drake, Belmont led by 12 in the first half and by seven at halftime only to see Drake come back in the second half. The Bruins trailed by one with under five minutes to go before going on the game-breaking run. Belmont reeled off 10 straight points to go up 71-62 with under a minute to play and hung on for the win. The Bruins shot 51.9% from the field, including five of 17 from three-point range, and held a 39-34 edge on the glass. Nick Muszynski led the team with 31 points and nine rebounds in the contest.

The Bruins are a high-octane offensive attack, racking up an average of 80 points a night on the season, leaving them 67th in the nation in scoring offense. Belmont collects 35.8 rebounds a night while handing out 17 assists a game this season. The Bruins have their struggles defensively as they are 298th in scoring defense, allowing 75.7 points a night. Nick Muszynski leads the team with 17.7 points plus 6.7 rebounds per contest on the year. Ben Sheppard (15.2 points) and Will Richard (12 points, 6.8 rebounds) are capable scoring options as well. Grayson Murphy, Luke Smith, Michael Shanks, JaCobi Woods, Tate Pierson and Caleb Hollander are key personnel for coach Casey Alexander this season. Belmont shoots 47.7% from the floor this season as a team. The Bruins splash 9.2 three-pointers a night while shooting 34% from beyond the arc. Belmont knocks down a stellar 76.1% of their attempts at the charity stripe this season.

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Full-Game Side Bet

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This one is going to be a really entertaining contest. Belmont has a ton of veterans in their rotation to work with on both ends of the floor, and they stepped up down the stretch in the win over Drake in the opening round. Meanwhile, Iona is coached by Rick Pitino, a man who has a stellar track record of success at a variety of stops around the country. We saw the Gaels come up with the victory in their first-round matchup, shocking Nate Oats and Alabama. You have to think that win will feed the Gaels and help them here. Look for Iona to continue to build their confidence and come up with the victory here to remain unbeaten while punching their ticket to the tournament title game.

Prediction: Iona Gaels +3.5

Full-Game Total Pick

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Iona has seen the over go 3-3 in their six games on the year. The Gaels are 82nd in defensive efficiency and 17th in three-point field goal percentage defense (24.2%) on the year. Iona is 96th in tempo with 70.4 possessions per game. Belmont has seen the over hit in three of their six games this season. The Bruins are 40th in offensive efficiency, 44th in effective field goal percentage (55.1%), 19th in two-point shooting (58.2%) and 52nd in free throw shooting according to KenPom this season. Belmont is 45th in tempo with an average of 71.9 possessions a night. These teams push the pace and that helps kick this one over the number.

Prediction: Over
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Written By Chris King , "Chris King"

Chris King has been immersed in the world of professional and collegiate sports for more than three decades. Whether it's playing pickup games or being involved in organized sports to being a fan, he's checked all the boxes. From the NFL to arena football, the NHL to the KHL, the NBA to the WNBA to college hoops, and even MLB to the KBO.  If it's out there, he's covered it and bet on it as well, as Chris has been an expert bettor in his career.  Before joining Winners and Whiners back in 2015, his work appeared around the internet and in print. He's written books for Ruckus Books about college basketball, the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, golf, and the World Cup. If you're looking for the inside track on hitting a winner, do yourself a favor and read what Chris has to say.