NCAA Tournament 2013: Before Ohio State, Iona's inspiring run to March

As part of SB Nation's 2013 March Madness coverage sponsored by McDonald's, they headed to four schools participating in this year's Big Dance. They visited the Iona College Gaels, who overcame tragedy in the summer to return to the NCAA men's basketball tournament for the second year in a row.

Coming off a heartbreaking 2012 loss that saw them blow the biggest lead in NCAA Tournament history against BYU, Iona still had seemingly all the momentum a mid-major program possibly could. Stars Lamont "MoMo" Jones and Sean Armand were both coming back, and a promising incoming class meant potentially positioning themselves to make history and who knows, maybe even win their school's first ever tournament game in 2013...And then tragedy struck.

After the unthinkable, senseless death of incoming freshman Michael Haynes, the Iona Gaels dedicated their season to their fallen would be teammate. Their journey throughout the year had its share of ups and downs: injuries and illnesses besieged the team, seemingly at the most inopportune times. The Gaels lost six games by a combined 11 points, including on a desperation buzzer beater to lowly St. Peter's. Even a 70 footer rang true for the opposition to force one should've been win to overtime.

But then Iona peaked at just the right time. After setting a goal to just get one or two possessions better each week, with Michael high in their hearts, the Gaels rallied together behind one of the nation's best scoring guard combos, Jones & Armand, to overcome all obstacles in their way and punch another ticket into the big dance. Now a group of New York kids with a New York mentality find themselves on one of college basketball's biggest stages against the tournament champions of the sport's toughest league. Tonight, we find out what happens in the next chapter.

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