The Iona Gaels, in their quest to upset Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament, have two things going for them that they didn't have a year ago: momentum and track suits.

That was the feeling Monday among many students on the school's New Rochelle campus. Iona, the 15th seed in the West regional, will play second-seeded Ohio State at 7:15 p.m. Friday in Dayton, Ohio.

The Gaels -- who settled for an at-large bid to the Big Dance last year, only to be eliminated in the opening round by Brigham Young -- automatically qualified for this year's tournament by defeating Manhattan in the MAAC Tournament championship last week.

In other words, unlike last year, Iona is riding into March Madness on a winning streak, which could be the difference between a first-round victory and an early exit, said Gabrielle Jordan, 21, a senior cheerleader.

"The intensity on the court [at the MAAC championship game] was unreal, something that I've never felt here at Iona," Jordan said. "Last year, when we got to go, it was a great experience, and the feeling was unbelievable. But this year, actually winning the MAAC Tournament ... the feeling was just indescribable."

A month ago, it seemed improbable that the Gaels would reach the NCAA Tournament again, having lost six out of seven games. But Iona has rallied to win five in a row since.

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The hot streak began against Loyola Maryland on March 1. In that game, the coaching staff -- usually decked out in business suits -- donned track suits in a bid to raise awareness for cystic fibrosis. Considering them lucky, the coaches have continued to wear the white-trimmed black track suits and say they will do so as long as the Gaels keep winning.

"We're undefeated with the track suits," said Jonathan Stanko, 20, a junior and a reporter for ICGaels.com. "So that's definitely a superstition the team has had. Fans are in the stands wearing the track suits."

The fact that Iona has a high-powered offense, which is second in the nation in scoring, averaging 80.7 points per game, also should give the team a fighting chance against Ohio State, ranked seventh by The Associated Press.

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"If we could just get some offensive flow going, you never know for an upset," Stanko said. ESPN's Dick Vitale "doesn't like us to win, but a couple of other people have put us in the upset pool maybe to be a bracket buster."