Sunday, March 15, 2009

Siena's seed: Good ... and, then, Bad

Charles Dickens began his classic novel "A Tale of Two Cities" this way:

“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times..."

It's probably an apt description, now, for Siena's draw in the NCAA tournament.

Siena, making its fifth trip to the "Big Dance" got its highest-ever seeding, a No. 9 in a 16-team bracket.

It draws No. 8 Ohio State in a first-round game Friday (time to be announced) at Dayton.

That's the best of times. More on that later.

And, then, if Siena gets past its first-round game, the event's overall No. 1 team, Louisville, will be awaiting on Sunday.

Which, of course, is the worst of times.

A No. 9 seed has only upset a No. 1 seed 3 times in 52 games since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

Louisville isn't only a No. 1 seed, but the tournament's overall No. 1.

(NOTE: The seeding committee rates the field from No. 1 to No. 65 in order to determine matchups.)

An overall No. 1 seed has never lost a second-round game since 1985.

Best not to look that far ahead.

The perception of the first-round match by this humble blogger is that it's a great match for Siena.

The Saints' best chance against teams from so-called "power conferences" is to go against a team that doesn't play the same up-tempo style as Siena, only with bigger, stronger, faster athletes.

This blogger has seen Ohio State a couple of times from his seat in front of the 42-inch TV screen, and the Buckeyes look like Woody Hayes' old three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust football teams at that school.

In otherwords, Ohio State doesn't move real fast.

But, it does have talent, and it's a good thing Siena won't meet Ohio State a year from now, because the Buckeyes don't have a senior on their roster, and their best six players include two freshmen, three sophomores and a junior.

Size-wise, Ohio State's starters won't overwhelm Siena's.

The starting five are:
6-foot-8, 255-pound sophomore post man Dallas Lauderdale (4.6 points, 3.6 rebounds).
6-7 sophomore swingman Evan Turner (17.1 points, 7.0 rebounds).
6-5 freshman forward William Buford (11.3 points, 3.7 rebounds).
6-6 sophomore forward Jon Diebler (11.4 points, 3.5 rebounds)
6-2 junior guard Jermaine Simmons (6.9 points, 1.4 rebounds)

The first player off the bench is freshman 7-foot, 275-pounder B.J. Mullens (8.5 points, 4.7 rebounds).

From personal observations, Ohio State is similar to Northern Iowa, Siena's BracketBusters' opponent from earlier this year, only a little better.

But the playing style, mostly in the half court, is similar.

Here's the supportive statistic: Ohio State averages 66.7 points per game. Siena averages 77.7.

In that respect, Ohio State might also be compared to last year's NCAA tournament first-round matchup for Siena, Vanderbilt.

Here's more good news for Siena. The Buckeyes' primary ball-handler is Turner, who has 123 assists but 112 turnovers.

By comparison, Siena's point guard Ronald Moore has 208 assists against 74 turnovers.

Siena's pressure defense forces turnovers. Opponents turn it over an average of 18 times per contest.

Ohio State, though, only commits 15 turnovers per game. But, much of that statistic is influenced by playing in the Big 10 where teams traditionally play a half-court style in which there are less turnovers.

Just a guess here, but Siena will likely try to get Ohio State playing at an unfamiliarily fast tempo, and that the Buckeyes won't handle it well.

If Ohio State gets into its half-court offense, it does most of its best work from the perimeter. Diebler has made 94 three-pointers this season, and makes 42.7 percent of his bonus attempts. Simmons is 44-of-122 (36.1 percent) from beyond the stripe, while Buford is 42-of-114 (36.8 percent).

Here's some bad news: The game's site, Dayton, is about 70 miles away from Ohio State's campus, so the Buckeyes are likely to be the crowd's favorite team.

Playing at Dayton, though, ensures that at least one attendee will be rooting for the Saints.

The women's basketball coach at Dayton is Jim Jabir, who coached three seasons at Siena before moving on after the 1989-90 season. Jabir remains close to several Siena administrators, including current women's coach Gina Castelli and athletic director John D'Argenio.

A prediction? It says here that Siena will add a second-straight first-round tournament victory and, then ...

Once again, Dickens' beginning to "A Tale of Two Cities" is an apt description of what Siena is facing if it plays two games in Dayton: "It was the season of hope. It was the season of despair.”

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