Jimmy Patsos can be an acquired taste and while he’s nowhere near being in jeopardy of losing his job (despite what Ronnie might tell you next time you go to Draddy Gym), there is pressure at Siena that he never felt in his nine years at Loyola (MD).
There just aren’t any other programs that are going to draw 6,244 people to watch them play, let alone on a Sunday afternoon against a team near the bottom of the MAAC standings. And Siena fans don’t need long memories to remember the three consecutive MAAC titles from 2008-2010, which also included the last two NCAA Tournament victories for the conference (over Vanderbilt and Ohio State).
Patsos did a masterful job last season leading a young Saints team that went 8-24 the year before to a 20-win season and a CBI championship, all of which seemed to build toward 2014-15 being the year that Siena fans could finally start to at least get close to MAAC glory again.
But it’s been far from that, and inconsistent Siena was blown out by Saint Peter’s 69-55 at the Times Union Center in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score would indicate, dropping the Saints to just 8-11, 5-5 in MAAC play.
And many of the fans in attendance let Patsos know about it. Getting a technical at halftime or not calling a single time out when the opponent goes on a 15-0 run to seal the game in the second half can be quirky when you’re winning the majority of your games. Or in front of 1,000 people at (with all due respect) a program like Loyola, who has done more losing than winning in the recent past (at least before Patsos showed up), simple apathy may keep enough people from caring to move any kind of publicity meter.
However – although injuries to Imoh Silas and Brett Bisping have played a huge part – the Siena fans expect more out of their team this season, and the fact that they haven’t beaten a team over .500 in the MAAC (yet lost to two teams, Fairfield and Saint Peter’s, at home who are below .500) and face a very difficult schedule the rest of the way means this has the potential to be a lost season for the Saints.
For now, here are my thoughts from the Times Union Center, where Saint Peter’s seemed to like the surroundings they’ll see at the MAAC Tournament in March:
1. Saint Peter’s still has potential – Like Loyola, Saint Peter’s doesn’t have enough buzz in Jersey City to make too many notice, but the Peacocks (10-11, 4-6) have been a bit of a disappointment of late. When Desi Washington returned, and Saint Peter’s won six of seven (including two MAAC games), it looked like Saint Peter’s might go on a run, but they had lost four of five heading into Albany Sunday, although it should be noted, against pretty good competition (losses to Manhattan twice, Rider, and resurgent Quinnipiac). Washington and Marvin Dominique haven’t been able to put together good offensive games concurrently, with Washington especially struggling from beyond the arc, which has made the Peacocks struggle offensively (still eighth in MAAC efficiency even after Sunday).
But Sunday, you saw they, at least in my opinion, have enough to win this league if they get hot at the right time. In addition to veterans Dominique (17 pts, 7-13 FG, 2-2 3pt, 8 rebs) and Washington (23 pts, 7-13 FG, 3-5 3pt), they have excellent point guard Trevis Wyche (9 assists, 4 steals), Quadir Welton inside with Tyler Gaskins a solid fifth man. John Dunne can even call on solid players like Elias Desport and veteran Jamel Fields (an Albany resident) off the bench when he needs to. But it’s all contingent on their big two leading the way offensively.
“That was one of our top three performances of the season,” Dunne said. “I think we played with great energy. Just a solid team effort.”
2. Siena still can’t play defense – Saint Peter’s scored at a 1.11 points per possession clip and shot the ball well both from two (21-41) and three (6-10). The one thing the Saints do well is turn people over (73rd nationally, sixth in the MAAC) and they did get a 24.5% turnover rate out of the Peacocks (15 in all). But the rest of the numbers are, I hate to say it, just turrible as Charles Barkley might say. They are 339th in defensive efficiency, dead last in the MAAC in conference play. All their faults were on display, including defensive rebounding, as Saint Peter’s finished with a 41.4% offensive rebounding rate (15 in all). Siena is somehow 51st (second in MAAC) in offensive rebounding, but 323rd in defensive (dead last in MAAC conference play). That kind of enigma is what seems to have Patsos at a loss. Again, the injuries are a factor, but there’s more amiss than that.
Even Marquis Wright (just 1 assist and two turnovers) and Lavon Long (only four rebounds and three turnovers) can’t seem to get things going consistently.
“We’re a pressing team and got five points off turnovers, they got 30 points off turnovers,” Patsos said. “Once again my pregame speech of ‘take care of the ball and just grind it out and it’ll be a last possession game’ was well heeded.”
3. Good luck handicapping the MAAC Tournament – Short look at where we are. Iona is still the favorite, but is Isaiah Williams healthy? And the Gaels’ defense would be dead last in the conference if it weren’t for Siena. You could make a good case for Rider being second best in the league, but Manhattan is playing much better, Monmouth and Canisius’ record tells us they should be considered contenders even if it’s easy to dismiss them based on what we thought of them in preseason. And then you’ve got Saint Peter’s and Quinnipiac, whose records might make it easy to toss out, but both have veteran talent (Zaid Hearst might be Player of the Year in the MAAC) that can carry teams in March. So basically, seven of the 11 teams could win without it being called a shock. And that doesn’t include the hosts (Siena), either. One thing that is fairly easy to project, it should be fun.