Saturday, February 6, 2010

Siena Approaches Historical Achievements

The Siena men’s basketball team won its 20th game of the 2009-10 season with its 88-68 victory over Iona on Friday night.

And, on Monday the Saints can clinch outright possession of the conference’s regular-season championship with a win over Fairfield at the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y., in its 14th game of the 18-game league season.

What it means is that we’re witnessing MAAC basketball history in the making.

Those successes to date this season hint at what the program is accomplishing not only now but but over the past four seasons with a string of excellence that puts Siena at the cusp of historical relevance in the MAAC’s 29-year existence.

Let’s take a look at what Siena has already accomplished, and what it might add to its glowing resume before the season ends.


The Saints’ 20-4 record thus far marks the fourth straight season the program has hit the 20-win mark: 27-8 last season; 23-11 in 2007-08; 20-12 in 2006-07.

Only two other teams in MAAC history can claim four consecutive 20-victory seasons. Those are the Iona teams from 1981-82 through 1984-85 (24-9, 22-9, 23-8 and 26-5) and the La Salle teams from 1986-87 through 1989-90 (20-13, 24-10, 26-6 and 30-2).

The Iona teams with four straight 20-victory seasons had Rory Grimes and Tony Hargraves as four-year constants; and Steve Burtt Sr. and Gary Springer for the first three years in the run.

The La Salle teams with four straight 20-victory seasons all included the MAAC's all-time best player, Lionel Simmons. He had considerable help from Tim Legler in the first two years of that run, from Doug Overton in the last three of those years and from Randy Woods in the final two of the stretch.

Siena’s senior players (forwards Edwin Ubiles and Alex Franklin, and guard Ronald Moore) have been around for all four of their team's 20-victory seasons. Guard Kenny Hasbrouck was on board for the first three years of the run, while current juniors Ryan Rossiter and Clarence Jackson have been in place for the past three seasons.

No MAAC team has ever had five consecutive 20-victory seasons.


The current Siena seniors can now claim 90 victories (90-35) over the past four seasons, the best four-year stretch in Siena history.

The previous mark for wins over a four-year stretch at that program was 89 (89-34) from 1987-88 through 1990-91), a run during which Marc Brown was the program’s top player. Siena, though, wasn't a MAAC member until the final two years of that stretch.

The all-time high victory total over four years by a conference program is 100 (100-31) by the Lionel Simmons-led La Salle teams of 1986-87 through 1989-90. The winning percentage of .763 during that stretch is the best ever by a conference team, and will remain so no matter what Siena does the rest of the way this season.

Iona’s record of 95-31 from 1981-92 through 1984-85 accounts for the second-highest four-year victory total by a conference team, followed by Manhattan's record of 93-32 from 1991-92 through 1994-95.

The current Siena group is almost certain to become the MAAC’s second all-time winningest team for a four-year run, and could approach La Salle’s all-time best 100-victory total.

Siena, with its active 14-game winning streak, has seven regular-season games remaining followed by the possibility of three games in the MAAC tournament and, then, by a national post-season tournament appearance.

Should the Saints win the MAAC tournament and, then, advance to the NCAA’s second round like they have the past two seasons they will play 12 more games this season. That means they would have to go 10-2 the rest of the way to match La Salle’s four-year 100-victory total.


Siena’s 13-0 start to the MAAC season is the longest unbeaten streak to start league play since the 1989-90 La Salle team cruised through unbeaten (16-0).

The next best start to a conference season was a year ago when Siena started 12-0 before losing in league play.

Can the Saints make it to 18-0?

Why would anyone think otherwise, barring an unexpected single-game letdown on Siena’s part?

After Monday’s game against Fairfield (Siena beat the Stags, 81-73, in Bridgeport, Conn., earlier this season), its final four games are all against teams that currently have sub-.500 records in conference play.

However, three of those last four are on the road: at Niagara on Feb. 12, at Canisius on Feb. 14, and at Rider on Feb. 26.

Still, Siena has dominanted everyone on its league schedule to date, winnings its 13 MAAC games by an average margin of 13.8 points per contest.

If Siena makes it through unblemished, it will join the 16-0 1989-90 La Salle team and the 14-0 1987-88 La Salle teams as the only conference programs to record perfect MAAC records.


If Siena does beat Fairfield on Monday, it will have a four-game lead over its closest pursuer, second-place Iona (9-4) with just four games left.

And, because Siena has already beaten Iona in both regular-season meetings, it already holds the top tie-breaker for regular-season ties.

It means a win Monday would make Siena the first team in MAAC history to clinch the regular-season title with four games remaining in the season.

It also sets the Saints up to match or better the largest lead over the second-place team in the final regular-season standings.

Only once in the conference’s previous 28 seasons has a team won the regular-season title with a four-game advantage over the second-place team. That was in the 1985-86 season when Fairfield finished 13-1 and runner-up Iona was 9-5.

Coincidentally, that Fairfield team was coached by Mitch Buonaguro, who is currently an assistant coach at Siena.

Only three other teams have won regular-season crowns by three-game margins (Manhattan in 2003-04), Iona in 1997-98, and La Salle in 1987-88).

In two seasons there has been three teams that finished with the same record to lead the conference; on five occasions there has been a two-way tie for the top spot. Nine times the top team has finished just one game ahead of the second-place tam and six times just two games ahead of the runner-up team.

1 comment:

Mulldog said...

Needham and Fairfield were impressive in defeat last night. For a game that - I think - Siena never trailed, the Stags refused to go away. Everytime Siena pushed it up and looked ready to go away Fairfield would hit a big shot or get a stop and a transition hoop. If Needham finds a way to cut down on his turnovers he is going to be truly special, as is he is a tremendous think he needs to work on getting the right people the ball at the right times. Fairfield never could get the ball in Johnson's hands and I'm not really sure Siena had an answer for him..particularly in the first half when Franklin was in foul trouble. Crawford looks like a very good shooter and the other freshman, Nickersons actually looks like a talent as well.
That said, I don't think they are there yet and despite hanging super tough, you got the sense they were very non-threatening to Siena despite the tight final score. There just didn't seem much of a chance for them to get over the hump to me. Credit that mainly to Siena, a team with as much balance as any MAAC team I recall. They can just beat you so many ways. With Ubiles, Jackson and Griffin all proving to be threats from deep the only weakness this team has is free throw shooting.

Niagara suffered a terrible loss to Rider blowing a 14-point halftime lead by going ice cold in the second half. Thompson gashed them for 31. Talk about blowing some wind out of the sails for the Friday ESPN2 matchup. If Niagara got that big road win you could argue they had a ton of momentum going into the game. I'm probably the only one out there who thinks Niagara still wins this game, though it's beginning to become more and more tough to argue beyond a "gut feel." For all the credit Milalich rightfully gets for his ability to recruit, his in-game coaching has always seemed pretty shaky and this year he seems more lost than ever. I understand the idea of playing your best players and going four guards because the bigs were struggling early in the season, but at no point did he decide to scrap this idea? Garrison is playing terribly and more than deserves to be benched. Williamson at center has been a nightmare from the get-go. Obviously, Nelson, Been and Lewis are must-starts, but he really should be using one, if not two of Edwards, Williams and Gillette. You don't see any other team in the nation with any type of talent not throw a big stiff out there and honestly Williams, Edwards and Gillette all - at the least - have the talent to be adequate or better MAAC bigs. I don't really like Edwards game as he hangs on the perimeter, turns it over a ton, doesn't board it too well and is just soft, but at least he is a shot-blocker and gives you somewhat of a presence. Williams has shown an ability to rebound and score a low-volume efficiently, which is about all you can ask, yet is no longer getting any minutes. Gillette has All-MAAC talent and while he has not looked ready out there, he boards, blocks shots and doesn't demand the ball...he seems to be the most imposing defensive presence on and off ball of any of them and this is exactly the type of player they need with all of the scorers they put out on the floor elsewhere.