Monday, December 28, 2009

Disappointment? Not For Siena's 7-4 Start

As a former journalist, your humble blogger is usually reluctant to criticize those in that capacity, with this qualifier: As long as they’re responsible and offer well-founded opinions.

Otherwise, they’re fair game.

The latest case of a lack of a well-founded opinion: Andy Katz, a college basketball writer with ESPN.

Here’s an item from a recent Katz’ offering, taking a look at the early portion of the season:

Biggest disappointments: Siena and Creighton
"Siena can still win the MAAC and fulfill its goals, but the Saints were supposed to be better than they've been. Fran McCaffery's team missed out in each of its nonconference chances, losing at Temple, to St. John's in Philadelphia, at Georgia Tech and at Northern Iowa. There isn't a bad loss in that group, but like Creighton, Siena doesn't have a signature win to tout. "

To that, your blogger will say this: The only people who think Siena’s start to the 2009-10 season is a disappointment are Andy Katz and the die-hard, green-colored-glasses wearing Siena fans whose knee-jerk reaction is utter despair after every loss.

Those who truly know college basketball recognize that Siena’s play to date is far from disappointing.

Siena is off to a 7-4 start prior to its Dec. 29 meeting with St. Joseph’s. It would take an extremist to classify any of those four losses as “disappointing.”

Here they are: to Temple, to St. John’s, to Georgia Tech and to the University of Northern Iowa.

All on the road.

Cumulative record of those four opponents as of the morning of Dec. 28: 37-7.

Georgia Tech is clearly one of the top three or four teams in the ACC this season. Northern Iowa has every player back from a 23-victory NCAA team last season. Temple is probably the second-best team in the Atlantic 10 and recently beat No. 3-ranked Villanova. And, this is the best St. John's team in a decade with a roster of the type Big East-level athletes Siena doesn't have.

In each of those games, for those who notice, Siena was the underdog in betting lines.

Yet, somehow Siena’s start is considered, by a writer at a major sports internet outlet, as one of the two most-disappointing starts by any of the 330-plus Division I programs nationally.

Just amazing ... amazingly shortsighted.

Maybe the disappointment is about Siena not living up to some preseason hype (one very unresponsible outlet tabbed the Saints as No. 15 nationally in its preseason prediction, another put Siena at No. 20).

Could it be that the preseason hype was the problem, and not Siena’s play thus far?

Could it be that the early expectations were unreal and unmerited for a mid-major program that wasn’t in anyone’s top 30 nationally last season, even after a first-round NCAA tournament over a solid, at best, Ohio State?

And, remember, Siena lost its best player (Kenny Hasbrouck, the MAAC’s Player of the Year) after last season.

Where did the overly lofty expectations come from? Mostly from outlets that rarely, if ever, see Siena play, have rare contact with the program’s coaching staff and players and have never witnessed the team in a practice setting.

This point has been made countless times in this forum, and needs to be stressed again: For real perspective about any mid-major level program, a level all but overlooked by the national media outlets, one needs to read the respective home town newspapers covering those programs. For Siena coverage/perspective, my friend Pete Iorizzo of the Albany Times Union is far and away the best at what he does.

Of course, those seeking that type of mid-major level perspective about this conference in particular could do far worse than to check in here regularly, too.

It says here that a 7-4 start to Siena's 2009-10 season was surely a far more realistic expectation than a foray into the nation's Top 25 polls.

The only disappointment is directed toward those who fail to see that.


Mulldog said...

I guess since he was the player of the year, you could argue Hasbrouck was Siena's best player, but I strongly disagree. Ubiles is a far superior player (or was last year) and Moore, Franklin and Rossiter were more efficient and vital to the Saints success last year. However, they certainly did feel the loss of his scoring (or as I thought of him - chucking) early this season. With Jackson finally having truly stepped up and hopefully with Griffin adding some more scoring, I think they will be better. Though I agree with the overall sentiments of the ridiculous pre-season reactions and the over-reaction to a couple of respectable early season losses. Unfortunately, those are the types of games you need to win if you plan to secure a possible at-large bid coming out of the MAAC, which they and Niagara have completely squandered. It was a longshot anyway, but I suppose that is what was meant as the disappointment considering so many people were predicting just that, pre-season.

Bryan Y. said...

Wow, the author of this blog is truly a Siena homer. It IS a completely disappointing start, considering so many publications tabbed Siena as a preseason top 25 team, and the initial AP poll of the season had Siena 26th or 27th. Not to mention the dozens of Siena fans I've encountered who coming into this season proclaimed the Saints the "Gonzaga of the East." Siena had lofty goals this season, so a 7-4 start is disappointing.
But here's what really bugs me: This blogger, in this post and many others, has mentioned how great Pete Iorizzo of the TU is at covering the MAAC, and how we should all read his stuff for MAAC insights. Are you aware there are 9 other MAAC beat reporters at nine other papers, that also work their butts off and provide great coverage? Yet, in this supposed MAAC blog you've only ever mentioned one beat writer, Pete Iorizzo, and one paper, the TU. This supposed MAAC blog is a glorified Siena blog, and this is the last straw. You have lost a reader for good.

Steve Amedio said...

To Mulldog: MAAC coaches picked Hasbrouck as PofY last year. Also, there was far more to Hasbrouck's game than merely scoring ... defense (arguably the best perimeter defender in the conference), leadership, ability to play the point to spell Moore, etc. Bottom line: big loss, one Siena struggled with early this season.
As far as predicting Siena was going to get an at-large berth ... consider the sources for those predictions. All non-credible.

To Brian Y: Have a clue.
If anything, I'm the opposite of a Siena homer. A Siena "homer" considers those losses disappointing. My attempt was to provide an objective view.

Please explain how losing to four teams all from bigger conferences, and all getting Top 25 votes in games away from home is a "disappointment?"
Losing those four games makes Siena one of the top two disappointments in the country, out of 330+ D-I programs (according to Andy Katz)?
C'mon, get real.

As for Pete Iorizzo: It's my strong opinion that he is indeed the best "beat" writer among those who work for local newspapers who cover the conference. Did you know that he is the only one who travels to every game his "home" team plays? No other newspaper makes that commitment to MAAC coverage. That alone gives Pete a greater base of information/contacts/perspective, etc., than his peers.

Plus, Pete is a terrific writer, a dilligent worker and has respectful/responsible insights.
Yet, you will note, that whenever this blogger writes about the best sources for information around the conference I always refer to readers checking out their respective hometown newspapers, not just Pete's work in the Albany Times Union. It's just that Pete is the best at what he does.

And, as always, thanks for reading and thanks for your passion about the MAAC.

Dan said...

As I noted, I am aware he was voted PoY and certainly I do not intend to claim to be of more knowledge in basketball than the coaches of the league. With that said, as a former player and avid fan I do have my own opinions of players/teams and I always thought Hasbrouck was highly overrated. Defensively, his effort and intensity was there and I loved that, but I also have watched him destroyed, in particular at the Gallagher Center last season, along with on other occasions.

His ability to handle the ball and spell Moore there is an excellent point though. In fact, it is when he was at his best, taking care of the ball, playing smart basketball, looking for good shots and playing defense. Certainly, he had the ability to create his own shot, but I think his effectiveness as a freshman and volume of shooting built up what was a reputation that exceeded ability. But again, that is my opinion and obviously his loss was felt, with some knowledgeable people who felt he was better than I.

To hit two thing at once, Bryan, if you do end up reading this; I believe you are misinterpreting what the blogger has meant here...he has always said that those very publications that made those predictions were wrong for the start and overrating Siena's ability. So to him the start isn't disappointing because it is what he expected. It's not that he thinks Siena is great and twisting the losses..he just thinks they are performing as he would have expected before the year. But, Mr. Amedio, I do disagree with you that Siena should never have hoped to get an at-large bid. This was one of the rare chances for the MAAC to get an at-large bid in my opinion. With a super-talented Niagara team capable of winning some games outside of the conference and Siena playing a pretty motivated out-of-conference schedule, it wouldn't have been out of the question. Let's say Siena won all their games they have, beat a Northern Iowa team they beat last year, this time in their place and ran the table. At 26-3, if they they won until the championship game in the MAAC and lost to Niagara, they would at the least be on the bubble. Last year they were 22-7 with no type of impressive out of conference win and some worse losses and were being touted as an "on-the-bubble" team before the MAAC tournament.

Considering that they won a tournament game and were hyped up before the season, I dare say even with their 4 losses if they were to run the table and lost in the championship game of the MAAC tournament they would at least get an "on-the-bubble" mention..and if they beat N Iowa (particularly if they win the MVC), losses against Temple, Ga Tech and St. John's away/neutral are not necessarily deal-breakers. Which I guess agrees with your point on the large scale.

I hope my point is clear, despite the round-about nature of some of that.

Steve Amedio said...

To Dan -
Thanks for your perspective, it's good stuff.
Some responses:
1) Not saying Hasbrouck was all-world, but his loss was felt in a lot of aspects. His replacement not only isn't as good, but not having Hasbrouck around (and Clarence Jackson coming off the bench) hurt Siena's depth early, which was also a factor in a couple of those losses.
2) You mention the preseason "hype" for Siena. It all came from people who just looked at the NCAA wins of the last two years and knew nothing about the team.
Did you know that every team in Sports Illustrated's preseason Top 25 had at least two players at least 6-7, and at least one player taller than 6-8, except for Siena and Michigan? And, Michigan has a couple of future NBA players on its roster, and Siena doesn't. Siena just physically doesn't match up with the "big boys."
Yeah, Siena could have gotten in contention for an at-large had it won a couple of the games it lost. But, to realistically have expected it to win those games ... all against better teams, all on the road, etc ... well, it's not disappointing that they lost those games. It certainly doesn't make Siena's 7-4 start one of the two most-disappointing starts, according to Andy Katz. That's just ludicrous.
That was my point. Yes, they played well at times in three of those four games. But, their weaknesses (lack of relative height/depth) showed up in all of the games.
OK, people are disappinted that Siena didn't win at least one of those four, but does that make Siena one of the nation's two most-disappointing teams to date? Makes Andy Katz look foolish.
No way Siena would have gone to the NCAA's last year with a 24-8 record (had it lost on the MAAC championship game). That insight comes directly from a source I had on last year's selection committee.