Sunday, March 14, 2010

Style Contrast Could Help Siena vs. Purdue

The best way to look ahead at Siena's chances to knock off Purdue in the first round of the NCAA tournament is to look back.

In 1989, 2008 and 2009 up-tempo Siena teams matched up with half-court teams Stanford ('89), Vanderbilt ('08) and Ohio State ('09). Siena won all three games.

In 1999, another up-tempo Siena team drew Arkansas in the first round of that year's NCAA tournament. Arkansas was a mirror image of Siena, an uptempo team but with bigger, better, faster athletes. The result was a predictable victory by the Razorbacks.

Most observers perceive this year's Purdue team to be more plodder than thoroughbred, more content to play a half-court game than to push the tempo.

Siena, we can be sure, will be trying to push the tempo.

If the score gets into the mid-to-high 70's, it won't be to Purdue's liking. The Boilermakers have only hit 80 points in six games this season, five of those against inferior mid-major level opponents.

College basketball is often a game of match-ups. In a match of contrasting styles, the team that can inflict its tempo on a game usually wins.

Purdue finished 27-5 in the tough Big Ten Conference this season, but lost its best player, 6-8 junior forward Robbie Hummel to a late-season knee injury.

The Boilermakers still have two players some observes perceive to have NBA futures in 6-4 junior guard T'waun Moore (16.6 points, 3.7 rebounds per game) and 6-10, 215-pound junior center JaJuan Johnson (15.2, 7.1).

But, no other player on Purdue's roster averages double figures. Purdue won't overwhelm Siena with size, either.

Its starting lineuup includes the slender 6-10 Johnson and four other players all 6-4 or shorter.

If Siena can get the game's tempo at a quicker style than Purdue would prefer, then this could be a significant first-round upset.

"Regardless of the loss of Hummel, they're still a tall task for us," said Siena student assistant coach Corey Magee, who has seen several of Purdue's televised games this season. "But, they're definitely a beatable team.

"They're similar, in terms of style, to both Vanderbilt two years ago and Ohio State last season. It's definitely going to be a game on contrasting styles, and something has to give."

"They looked like a No. 1 seed before Hummel went down," said Saints' coach Fran McCaffery, about Purdue. "Losing him changed some things, but they remain a very good team. They're terrific defensively. We know they'll really get into us.

"But, we'll be ready to play. We'll have a good game plan, and I'm confident that we'll play well."

The Saints are actually better positioned than ever to potentially advance to the Sweet 16 round. If they get there, they would be the first MAAC men's team in history to get that far.

As a No. 13 seed Siena gets a No. 4-seeded team in the first round and, then, probably a No. 5 (Texas A&M) in the second round.

It's a less-difficult route than last year's when, after a first-round victory over Ohio State, Siena had to match up with a No. 1-seeded Louisville.

This year's No. 1 seeds, Kansas, Kentucky, Duke and Syracuse, would be all but impossible opponents to defeat in a second-round game had Siena gotten through this year's first round as a No. 9 seed.

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