Today against Purdue, Siena earned another moral victory — if there is such a thing. Purdue doesn’t figure to challenge in the Big Ten, but the Boilermakers are now off to a 5-0 start and looking like a potential NCAA Tournament team if they are able to earn some good victories in the Big Ten. For Siena to head to Mackey Arena and go toe-to-toe with the Boilermakers despite losing 81-73, that’s encouraging.
One of the biggest winners of the offseason coaching carousel was Siena. The Saints struggled for the past three seasons following Fran McCaffery’s departure to Iowa with Mitch Buonaguro at the helm compiling a record of 35-59. After a string of success that saw Siena reach three consecutive NCAA Tournaments where they earned two victories, Siena fans began to grow restless that Buonaguro was unable to sustain the momentum McCaffery had built.
Buonaguro was ousted, and Jimmy Patsos hired.
Patsos came to Siena from Loyola (MD) where he built that program up from next to nothing into one of the top teams in the MAAC — he is no stranger to turning a program around.
Given Siena’s success in recent years and support given to the program by the school, alumni, and fans in the greater Albany area, the job of building Siena back up into a MAAC power won’t be as challenging as it was at Loyola. Not much is expected of Siena in Patsos’ first season. Their top player from a season ago, O.D. Anosike, has graduated and Rakeem Brookins is no longer on the roster due to off-the-court issues.
Despite inheriting a roster that is surely not as talented as Patsos would hope, he has them competing and performing well. Siena began the season 0-3, but their 78-74 loss to La Salle in their third game was certainly encouraging, especially since they led the Explorers for much of the game. While they were unable to close out La Salle, they followed up that loss with a good win at home against St. Bonaventure.
Freshman point guard Marquis Wright is the player who Patsos will build a team around, and Wright acquitted himself well against Purdue scoring ten points and dishing out five assists. Evan Hymes came off of the bench to score a game-high 18 points — his decision not to transfer has given Patsos a real scoring threat off the bench.
Siena was picked to finish tenth in the MAAC with only Monmouth selected to finish below them, but the way the Saints have been playing in the early going, they certainly don’t look like one of the worst teams in the conference.
Patsos made his trademark at Loyola as a tremendous recruiter. Once he has a couple of recruiting classes in at Siena, expect the Saints to rise back to the top of the MAAC.