The Sum Of All Siena Fears

The distance that Siena is from their College Basketball Invitational tournament victory is getting longer by the day, but the perception of the team continues to be shaped by it.

Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos
Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos is busy searching for answers after a loss to Fordham on Monday night.

After finishing with 20 wins last season, the Saints were told they would be good and contend in the MAAC. The worst thing they have done so far is believe it, because they haven’t shown it.

“I am trying everything I can to get this team to play 40 minutes and forget about last year’s CBI championship,” head coach Jimmy Patsos said after their most recent loss to Fordham. “I can’t seem to get through to certain guys on my team about playing hard.”

Siena opened with a strong performance against UMass, where they were tied at 83 before free throws separated the two teams, but since then the ugly side has come out far too often against teams that are ready to bounce back.

Vermont was going to be ready for the home opener against Siena after losing to Canisius on the road. Patsos tried to warn his group, but they thought they could show up and coast. The problems were compounded when the Saints didn’t compete on the glass and let guards coast into the lane with ease. Ethan O’Day bullied the Saints big men for a game-high 20 points and freshman guard Trae Bell-Haynes went where ever he wanted in the lane, scoring 16 points.

However it was a play, after the Saints closed the lead to two, where Patrick Cole was told to not lose Vermont’s Kurt Steidl that was the back breaker. Seconds later, the 6’7″ sophomore was standing in the corner next to the Catamounts bench receiving a pass and his made three-point shot was barely contested by the 6’5″ Coppin State transfer; stretching the lead to five.

Patsos, prior to the trip to Loyola (MD) and Fordham, summed it up that the Saints had put together 36 good minutes against UMass and had a bad eight minutes against Vermont. Coming into Monday night’s game, and seeing all the drama unfold as Jon Severe took a leave of absence from the team, Patsos knew that they would get a fight from a united Rams team after their most recent loss to Maryland Eastern Shore.

The Saints’ bad eight minutes appeared again when they were held without a basket for 8:33 in the first half at Fordham. The Saints watched as an 18-10 lead turned into a 26-18 deficit, one they would never come back from. However, what irritated the second year head coach of Siena more was the lack of intensity in allowing 11 second-chance points on eight first half offensive rebounds.

“When we got stops, things went well, offensive rebounds kill you because you don’t get stops,” Patsos said.

poole_oliver_siena
Siena’s Rob Poole (center) drives the lane late against Fordham. He made just one field goal on Monday night.

While the Saints love to run and press, they are good at it too, their pressure is more about dictating tempo than it is for getting turnovers. However they tend to give away too many cheap fouls, which Monday put the Rams at the free throw line 32 times. Only one team in all of college basketball has let their opponents get to the free throw line on more trips than the Saints.

The fact that Patsos, who called a timeout just under two minutes into the second half to reinforce his halftime message, pushed every single button he could on his players but still fell a blocked layup short must be exhausting. The 48 year-old head coach spent most of his time between the midcourt line and the line that is supposed to be the visitor’s coaching box, trying to push his team to a win.

“I can’t get us to play 40 minutes and I’m upset,” Patsos said. “I’m mostly upset at myself.”

Siena opens conference play Friday night against Quinnipiac, a team that has one of the conference’s best big men in Ousmane Drame and a tough guard to stop in Zaid Hearst. The Bobcats made it to the free throw line 32 times against Vermont. If Siena commits fouls at their current rate, Quinnipiac will be feasting at the free throw line at the Times Union Center. Not just that, but the teams they would like to jump, Manhattan and Iona, live at the free throw line and love to get there by drawing contact. After that the Saints have a trip to Rider coming, a team that dropped two games to top 25 teams a week ago in the Orlando Classic, that will be motivated to get some early wins in MAAC play.

To those who anointed Siena prior to the season’s start; maybe the question shouldn’t be why put them near the top, but does their body of work merit it at all.

Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.

2 thoughts on “The Sum Of All Siena Fears

  1. Good article. Siena has under-achieved as they seem to be lacking energy, effort and miss Silas in the paint. JO, Bispring and Long are ALL playing small.

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  2. I’m not too worried about the Saints. They opened season with 3 road games against A10 teams. Siena didn’t play any preseason tournaments, so they were dropped straight into the fire of road games against good teams. As the rust comes off and they atart hitting shots that so far haven’t been falling, and get the new guys acclimated to the system, they will be fine.
    They proved it tonight by easily handling a Quinnipiac team that had a huge size advantage. The Saints will finish second in the MAAC regular season.

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