Siena’s CBI Championship Shows Power of Home Court

After a six-game journey, the Saints locked up their first 20-win season since reaching the NCAA tournament in 2010 with a 81-68 victory over Fresno State in the deciding game of the College Basketball Invitational championship series.

This is what every MAAC coach and fan was worried about. The MAAC tournament moves to Siena’s home arena, the Times Union Center, starting next season and the Saints are on the rise. After finishing the regular season 15-17 and losing to Canisius in the quarterfinals of the MAAC tournament, it appeared the Saints season was over, until word started to trickle in that Siena could be a candidate for the CBI.

The MAAC, thanks to TV revenue and a strong league, has been able to dedicate funds to all postseason teams and the Saints received three home games out of the deal. The team got a chance to play in a scenario where they would have to win games with their season on the line.

They succeeded on the way to the finals by beating Stony Brook and Illinois State by double digits at home, a feat they accomplished seven times this season, including Saturday’s 13-point win over Fresno State. They found a way to beat Big Ten opponent Penn State when Evan Hymes drove past his man for a layup with under four seconds left.

Siena junior Rob Poole (left) and head coach Jimmy Patsos (right) could have the last laugh when next season’s MAAC tournament returns to Albany. (photo courtesy: Siena Athletics)

The arena floor will likely be different in the MAAC tournament next year, but Siena has shown a propensity to play very well at home. They were 14-5 in Albany this season, their last loss coming in overtime against Quinnipiac at the start of February.

Siena’s returnees to the program, almost a year after Patsos inherited the job, are the reason why they were able to sustain a run to their first Division I postseason championship. Sophomore Brett Bisping showed the largest jump, from playing limited minutes last season to being put in a position to become one of the league’s best front court players. It’s hard not to tell how Patsos has been able to get as much out of Bisping as he has from knowing exactly where to push his buttons.

“If I’m having a great game and I mess up, he’s not going to let anything slide with me because he knows I don’t have enough raw talent to not play as hard as I can every day,” Bisping said after winning the CBI Most Valuable Player award. “I’m very thankful that he’s my coach right now. He’s pushing me to be better.”

Bisping is becoming a dominant rebounder and has also started to find multiple ways to score. His significant statistical improvements in almost every category bode well as he makes the jump to his junior season.

“I’m not sure anyone improved more than Brett Bisping at the Division I level and I’m not kidding,” Patsos said. “That I will take credit for.”

Meanwhile, junior Rob Poole started to show why he’s such a focal point for opponents, but the weapons around him improved too. Sophomore Ryan Oliver made a three-pointer in each of the team’s final nine games and the talented freshman class continued to show off their abilities.

Freshman Marquis Wright has shown he is capable of handling the point guard spot bestowed upon him once he entered the school. Wright also showed the ability to score at times when not showing off a solid all around game. Lavon Long might be listed at 6’6″, but showed why he could be a matchup nightmare for future MAAC opponents. He willed the Saints to their win over Penn State, scoring 13 of his career high 17 points with an aggressive second half.

“We now have the confidence to know that we are capable of winning,” Long said. “We can win championships and we can only get better from here.”

This run shows the Saints have the ingredients to be successful next season in the MAAC, but it doesn’t guarantee any victories. The road will not get any easier for Siena heading into next season. They open up at UMass – an Atlantic 10 team that made the NCAA tournament. There are never any easy wins on the schedule before entering a grueling 20-game conference slate.

The team needs to guard against complacency, there are places each of the Saints can improve their game. Siena’s defense was one of the best in conference play, but their propensity to foul at absurd rates is a concern moving forward.

They are poised to add three commits to a team that currently only loses redshirt junior Marcus Hopper. How they balance their 13 scholarship players remains to be seen.

However, one year after his hire, it’s clear that Siena will be a tough out when they face their first MAAC tournament opponent at the Times Union Center next year. Every opposing MAAC coaches’ nightmare has come true.

One thought on “Siena’s CBI Championship Shows Power of Home Court

  1. “They were 14-5 in Albany this season, their last loss coming in overtime against Quinnipiac at the start of February.”

    Actually, they lost to Canisius in Triple OT at home on February 16th.

    Crazy that the only two games they lost at home in all of February were after four total Overtimes in those 2 games.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s