DAYTON, Ohio — Walter Roese has a lot of Brazilian connections. Scott Machado, Iona's dime-dishing point guard, is one of those.
So let the former BYU basketball assistant coach (2005-07) say that BYU has its hands full tonight.
"He's a heck of a player," Roese told the Daily Herald by phone, where he now lives in Provo but is out of collegiate coaching. "He is so fast. His first step — it can force a team to send a lot of help, and then he's able to pass. He can create other peoples' shots."
Hence how a 6-foot-1 senior averages 13.6 points and a Division I-best 9.9 assists, leading the nation's highest-scoring team into the first round of the NCAA Tournament against BYU.
Tempo is the main story in tonight's 7 p.m. (Utah time; truTV) "First Four" game at the University of Dayton Arena in central Ohio.
Machado has just now gotten the attention of BYU, which drew the opponent on Sunday. They are a pair of No. 14 seeds trying to earn a chance to advance to Louisville, Ky., and play No. 3 Marquette on Thursday.
This is the time of year when collegiate legends are made, but also NBA draft picks. Right now some boards have Machado listed as a second-rounder this summer. Roese said he's heard from others that Machado could move up based on workouts alone. But of course a good tournament run can also improve some stock (uh, Jimmer Fredette last March, anyone?).
"Their point guard is as good with the ball as anybody we've ever played," BYU seventh-year head coach Dave Rose said. "And he not only can finish at the rim, he's a great 3-point shooter. And then he can really make plays for our teammates. And his teammates are good finishers. It's not a team that creates things for themselves. They play together. They share the ball, and transition defense will be a huge factor."
Machado worked on his outside shot in the offseason. He was at 32 percent as a junior and 41 this season. He's also up slightly in steals and down barely in turnovers, good trends for an older player.
"Obviously we've got to stop them," said BYU senior forward Noah Hartsock, himself trying to make a showcase of himself as BYU's top leading scorer. "They scored nearly half their points in transition. And we've just gotta try to jam them, slow them down, and try to limit those opportunities they might have."
Machado was asked specifically Monday about a label that apparently has been attached to him in the east (Iona sits 20 minutes north of New York City): That he is the best point guard no one's really heard of.
"I think they're right. I feel like this is my opportunity that I have, and my team has, to show what got us here," Machado said. "And that the whole team, as a whole, helped me become that best point guard. So it's just an opportunity I get to show my talent to the world."
Machado also got to show off that talent last summer in a Under-21 national team trip to Brazil, with competition also in China.
Roese discovered through a connection that Machado was actually born in Brazil, like his parents, which made him a possibility. He moved to New York as a toddler.
Roese recalled that Machado had a thick New York accent and his Portuguese was "very below average," which left him getting teased by new teammates.
The player won over teammates, in part, by passing a lot.
"He's a very good kid," Roese said. "Very friendly."
And he sure can give it up for his teammates. Look no further than the beginning of the season, when he had an assist stat line of 11-15-15 as the Gaels lost to another NCAA tourney team Purdue by one point, then smoked Western Michigan and Maryland in a tournament at Puerto Rico.
"We need to stretch (opponents' defenses) out," coach Tim Cluess said, because of the team's lack of height. "We need to hit the open man. And we like to run. So Scott's become the perfect point guard for our system."
And just like baseball playoffs often comes down to pitching, this time of year in college basketball is all about the point guards.
BYU (25-8) vs. Iona (25-7)
7 p.m. MDT, University of Dayton (Ohio) Arena (13,435)
Radio: KSL 1160 AM (102.7 FM)
Tip-ins: The pair of No. 14 seeds are playing for the right to face No. 3 seed Marquette of the West Region on Thursday afternoon in Louisville, Ky. ...This is BYU's sixth consecutive NCAA bid, Iona's first since 2006. ...Iona is the first Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference team to receive an at-large bid since Manhattan (1995) defeated Oklahoma in the first round. ...BYU is 14-29 in the NCAA field, including a 2-1 mark last year in the team's longest venture (Sweet 16) in 30 years.