Sunday, March 14, 2010

Siena's First-Round NCAA Foe Is Purdue

Siena gets Purdue in the first round of the men's NCAA basketball tournament.

The Saints get there as a No. 13 seed, while Purdue gets a No. 4. Their game will be be played Friday night in Spokane, Wash.

What are Siena chances? Check the next blog item for some thoughts on that.

Purdue, though, is big, talented and tied for first place in the tough Big Ten Conference. It finished 27-5 overall, but lost to Minnesota, 69-42, in the Big Ten tournament's semifinal round, almost assuredly costing itself a No. 2 or No. 3 seeding position.

Siena is 27-6 overall, but doesn't have a victory this season over a team in the top 70 nationally.

But, the Saints return four starters and its sixth man from last year's team that topped another Big Ten squad, Ohio State, in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Siena's matchup drew loud cheers from a crowd of about 800 that joined the team at the Loudonville school's Alumni Recreation Center to watch the evening's selection show.

In truth, the roars probably would have been the same had Siena drawn a worst seed and a tougher opponent.

Team members and support staff wore tee-shirts commemorating the Saints' recent MAAC tournament championship on the front with the word "McCaff3" on the back, referring to its head coach, Fran McCaffery, and the program's three straight trips to the NCAA tournament under his direction.

Siena becomes just the second MAAC men's team in the conference's 29-year history to advance to the NCAA's in three consecutive seasons. La Salle's teams of 1987-88, 1988-89 and 1989-90, was the other.

Siena is already the conference's first men's teams to win first-round games in back-to-back seasons (Vanderbilt two years ago, Ohio State last season).

There's even more at stake than that. Xavier is the only mid-major level program ... if you consider Xavier, of the Atlantic 10 Conference, a mid-major program ... to win at least an NCAA tournament game in three straight seasons (2007, '08 and '09), and could stretch that to four straight as a No. 6 seed against Minnesota this year.

Siena would get into that lofty company with a tournament victory this season.

"All I'm worried about is this year's game," said Saints' coach McCaffery. "Whether there's any historical perspective involved, that's for other people to talk about."

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