Siena Surprising So Far In MAAC Play
Halfway through the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference season, the Siena men's basketball team is 4-5 and probably feeling pretty good about it.
The Saints have defeated arguably the two most talented teams in the league (also picked 1-2 in the preseason poll) in Iona and Fairfield. They also have only one meeting left against the three teams tied for first in the league and it's at home (Manhattan -- 2/14).
Siena was 4-5 last season at this point in the league schedule and finished 8-10.
This season there is reason to be optimistic that the Saints can finish stronger. Siena hasn't played the two teams at the bottom of the standings (Canisius & Marist) and has four games left at home, where they are 7-3.
The position that Siena is in is just remarkable. Last season, the Saints had two of the best players in the league -- Ryan Rossiter (the MAAC Player of the Year) and Clarence Jackson.
This season, Siena has more players sitting on the bench in suits then they do in uniforms. Before the season, the Saints lost point guard Rakeem Brookins to a back injury and Davis Marten
s to a hip issue. They've also lost players to transfers (Davonte Beard) and eligibility issues (Imoh Silas & Lionel Gomis).
The job that Mitch Buonaguro has done has been terrific. Even the biggest Mitch doubters have to be impressed with how this season has unfolded.
Again, last year Siena won 13 games. This season they've already won nine and they have at least 11 games to play (9 league, 1 BracketBusters, 1 MAAC tournament).
A lot of the Saints success can be attributed to one person -- OD Anosike. The Staten Island native has been so dominant that I think he's put himself into the talk for player of the year, despite being on a middle of the pack team. He leads the nation in rebounding (12.7 rpg) and has posted 15 consecutive double-doubles. He has provided Siena with a player who has to be accounted for by opposing teams and really made a gigantic jump from last season.
The other two guys who have been tremendous for the Saints are freshman Evan Hymes and senior Kyle Downey.
Heading into this season, if you had told me Hymes would lead the team in scoring forthe first two months, I would have said, "What happened to Brookins and who is the next head coach?" Hymes has emerged, just like Brookins did last year and should provide the Saints with the most athletic backcourt next season.
To say Downey is an everyman is severely underselling his talent and heart. Still, I bet that half of the crowd, at a Siena game is saying "That could be me out there," when watching Downey play. The way he is playing right now (13.2 pts., 5.1 reb. & 2.7 ast. per game), he should not only be considered for all-MAAC honors, but definitely recognized for the way he has played.
I like Siena's chances in the second half of the MAAC schedule. That being said, it'll be tough for this team to make an impact in the conference tournament because they don't play a lot of guys and would have to play back-to-back nights.
Although, the way this season has gone I wouldn't be shocked if Siena surprised some people (including myself).