Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Iona: Meet of the Champion?

I'll say it: Iona certainly looked like the #3 team in the country on Saturday. Cornell held its varsity out, but the Gaels still beat a bunch of the better teams on the East Coast, while sitting several of their studs. Plug in Father Abraham and Harbert the Love Bug and the Gaels probably go 1-5-6-7-8 against a handful of teams just beyond the borders of at-large-land. Oh and what's that? Ledwith didn't race either? Yeah. Iona looks dominant.

But I'd say it ends there. They only LOOK like the #3 team in the country. The biggest knock on these guys (knocks by all you xenophobes notwithstanding) has been that nobody's certain that Iona has the top-10 type guy they'll need to offset Rupp or Vaughn/Pifer or Eagon or Chelanga/McDougal (OK, kidding on that last one). Khadraeiou-and-sometimes-y made big strides last year to move up to 12th at Terre Haute, but for whatever reason, he doesn't seem to give his team that same swagger up front that those other guys do - maybe because the others look like contenders for the individual title on the right day, and no one is comparing Mo-K to Ricardo Kiplagat at this point. Sadly, he did little to dispel that notion this weekend, nosing out a win against a fella who is talented, but probably borderline All-American caliber, with a couple others who didn't even crack top-20 regionally last year close behind. Maybe Okuti will step up to hit clean-up, but it also doesn't help matters that Matthew Kiplagat is no longer listed on the Iona roster. (Bet ya didn't know that yet, huh?) Joe Parks and Chase Pizzonia ran well Saturday, and may equal Kiplagat's performance at Nationals from last season, but I'm sure Iona supporters were plugging improvement at the 5-spot into their calculations for this season.

The bottom line is this: a hypothetical 7 in before Brown and Penn State's 1st, and Navy and American's 2nd... it's quite good, but none of those teams have looked capable of making noise nationally this season in the first place, and in the second place, all Iona showed on Saturday was their depth, and unless we're talking 8-10-11-15-17-in-Terre-Haute depth, depth alone isn't even going to get you in the national title discussion.

Which leaves us at... third place. Iona were ranked 3rd pre-season and, frankly, going into the year I felt they could take home the team title if things broke right. But now...? Given the number of teams with depth 1-6 this year, I think third would be a very solid showing for the Gaels.

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