Monday, March 1, 2010

No. 1 Seed Siena The Clear-cut Favorite

Over the next few days we'll be doing a team-by-team analysis of the MAAC men's post-season tournament as well as a more-general review of the women's event.

We'll do it in order off seeding position, starting with top-seeded Siena.

SIENA (17-1 MAAC record, 24-6 overall).
RPI RANKING (as of Monday morning): 40 of 347 Division I teams.

SEASON ANALYSIS: Pretty much as any reasonable prognosticator expected (the top 20 preseason predictions made by some national media outlets were ludicrous). The Saints beat every team they were supposed to beat, except Niagara. Still, Siena set a conference record for most victories in a season (La Salle's unbeaten seasons were 16-0 and 14-0). Siena now benefits from an 18-game league season. All five of its other losses came against national-caliber teams (Georgia Tech, Temple, Northern Iowa, Butler and St. John's), and all away from home.

WHY SIENA WILL WIN THE TOURNAMENT: Best talent, by far. It has the conference's best player at four of the five positions (Alex Franklin, Ryan Rossiter, Ronald Moore and Edwin Ubiles) and the fifth starter (Clarence Jackson) is among the top 3 or 4 off-guards in the league.

The tournament is being played on Siena's Times Union Center home court, where the Saints have a 35-game unbeaten streak.

Plus, this is a veteran team ... three seniors and two juniors ... who have considerable experience playing together and a keen knowledge of how to win games in just about any fashion.

WHY SIENA WON'T WIN: Its only real weakness is depth. Siena coach Fran McCaffery has gone the entire second half of five games this season without making a single substitution. That said, his best reserve player, Kyle Downey, has returned from a broken foot and will help. And, freshman O.D. Anisoke has developed as the year has progressed, so the depth concerns aren't as pronounced as they have been for much of the year.

PREDICTION: Siena will win the tournament.

WHAT'S NEXT: Siena is being predicted to get a No. 13 seeding position in a 16-team NCAA bracket by most "bracketologists." Your blogger believes the Saints could also get a No. 12 seed.

If Siena doesn't win, though, it is all but certain to head to the NIT (by virtue of an automatic invitation via its regular-season conference championship). A first-round game against a play-in round winner will drop Siena a few spots in the RPI, as would a tournament loss. If Siena does lose in this event, the likelihood is that its RPI would drop to the mid-50's, if not lower, and that probably won't cut it with the NCAA selection committee that determines the at-large teams.

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