The Siena Saints began a new era of basketball on their trip to Montreal last week, with new head coach Jimmy Patsos coaching the program after spending nine seasons at Loyola (MD). It’s safe to say that Patsos knows turnarounds, as he turned a Greyhound program that won just one game the season before his arrival into a consistent MAAC contender.
The hope amongst the Siena faithful is that Patsos is the man to reverse the Saints’ fortunes, as the program went through three leans seasons following Fran McCaffery’s move to Iowa. The Saints return a few solid contributors from last season’s team, including guard Evan Hymes, and their freshmen will need to contribute immediately as well. Marquis Wright took strides towards becoming the option at point guard, and classmates Lavon Long, Javion Ogunyemi and Michael Wolfe also saw action in Montreal.
And on Friday it was officially announced by the program that another freshman will be joining the program, as 6-3 wing Maurice White has been cleared by the NCAA. As a senior at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, White averaged 17 points and eight rebounds per game.
White was originally committed to attend Loyola, but changed his decision after Patsos resigned to take over at Siena. Back with the coach he wanted to play for, White will have an opportunity (as will his classmates) to earn immediate playing time.
How long will the turnaround take? That’s always a tough question to answer, but the fact of the matter is that the hiring of Patsos (who has been one of the MAAC’s biggest promoters over the years) is certainly a step in the right direction. After reaching the NCAA tournament three consecutive seasons Siena has finished below .500 in each of the last three seasons. There will be an adjustment period, and Hymes’ broken hand doesn’t help matters, but don’t expect the Saints to be down for long.
The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.
The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.
They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.
That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.
So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.
Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:
With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.
At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes
“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:
“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”
“It’s all money.”
Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.
Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .
Want to talk about coaching luxuries?
Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.