Some may snark that the College Basketball Invitational isn’t a true postseason tournament, but the CBI affords teams to continue their season for up to six games, furthering development especially for teams chock full of underclassmen. For the two finalists in this season’s CBI — Fresno State and Siena — those six games were crucial: both teams are among the least experienced in DI (only ten teams had fewer returning minutes than Siena), and the extra games allowed both Rodney Terry and Jimmy Patsos more minutes to work with their teams before the offseason starts. After a deadlocked start to the tournament, the deciding game tilted in the Saints’ favor, and the MAAC squad took the 2014 CBI title, 81-68.
It has been some time since Siena was a factor in the MAAC race. When Fran McCaffery left Loudonville for Iowa, the program was turned over to longtime assistant Mitch Buonaguro, and while Buonaguro struggled to keep the squad relevant in conference play (Siena never finished above .500 during his three seasons), he did bring some talent to the school. As Patsos noted during the finale’s post-game presser, “Mitch Buonaguo left us some good players.”
More importantly, those good players are, for the moment, all returning next season. The team is bereft of seniors, and the team’s most efficient and high usage players — Lavon Long, Brett Bisping, and Rob Poole — are all scheduled to be back. Siena was picked to finish ninth (out of eleven squads) in the MAAC’s preseason poll, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the Saints are ranked in the top half of the league in 2014-15. Siena isn’t a dark-horse — as evidenced by their CBI performances, this team isn’t sneaking up on anyone — and an extra offseason and year under Patsos’ tutelage should further transform this team into one that could easily challenge Manhattan, Quinnipiac, and Iona for the league title.