Thursday , Mar , 16 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Iona takes on LSU in first round of NCAA Tournament

(Sports Network) – The 13th-seeded Iona Gaels will attempt to upset the
fourth-seeded LSU Tigers in the first round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament. The
winner of this Atlanta Regional bout will move to the second round to face
either 12th-seeded Texas A&M or fifth-seeded Syracuse on Saturday.

Iona earned the MAAC’s automatic bid by winning the conference championship
game by 19 points over Saint Peter’s. The Gaels are just 1-7 in NCAA
Tournament games, and the lone victory came in 1980 when current head coach
Jeff Ruland played for the team. It should be mentioned that of the
seven defeats they have suffered in the “Big Dance”, only one has come by
more than four points.

LSU is 19-21 in NCAA Tournament games and has earned a spot here in three of
the last four years. The Tigers are 9-9 in first-round games, and they were
bounced from last year’s event earlier than expected. They won the outright
SEC title this year, but were knocked out of last week’s SEC Tournament by
eventual champ Florida.

LSU won the only previous matchup with Iona by a 105-87 final 33 years ago.

Iona is not short on standout performers, as Steve Burtt and Ricky Soliver
have both earned significant accolades. Burtt is a First Team All-MAAC
performer who was named the MVP of the league tournament. As for Soliver, he
is the MAAC Defensive Player of the Year and a Second Team all-league
selection. Burtt, a senior guard, averages 25.2 ppg to rank among the national
scoring leaders, and he has nailed 34 three-pointers in the last seven games.
Soliver gets a great deal of credit for his defense, but the fact that he
poured in a career-high 31 points against Marist in the MAAC semifinal is
proof that he is more than capable of getting the job done at both ends of the
floor. He is scoring 16.2 ppg to go along with 5.4 rpg, and his 80 steals are
twice as many as the next closest Gael.

There has not been a single game this season in which either Burtt or
Soliver has failed to lead Iona in scoring. Kiril Wachsmann is overshadowed
by his teammates at times, but the 6-8 forward is contributing 11.8 ppg and
8.6 rpg.

It must be pointed out that LSU played the SEC Tournament without the services
of forward Tyrus Thomas, the SEC Freshman of the Year, and star guard Darrel
Mitchell was limited by an ankle injury. With Mitchell almost fully recovered
and Thomas expected back in the lineup, there is reason for the Tigers to be
confident as this tournament begins.

It all starts with massive forward Glen Davis, the 310-pound SEC Player of
the Year. Davis has registered 18 double-doubles this season and has reached
double figures in scoring in 35 straight outings. Mitchell is just 5-11, but
the senior guard is posting 17.3 ppg and 4.6 apg. He is the team’s only
senior and is one of the nation’s most deadly three-point shooters. Thomas is
an athletic 6-9 rookie who brings 12.7 ppg and 9.3 rpg to the floor to go
along with his three blocks per contest. Davis was held to 12 points by
Florida in the SEC Tournament loss, so expect him to play with some added
motivation tonight.