Here's another in the series previewing the MAAC women's post-season touranment.
No. 4 Siena (11-7, 13-15) vs. No. 5 Fairfield 10-8, 17-12), Friday at 3:30 p.m.
WHAT SIENA HAS: Its best MAAC record since 2003-04. Also arguably the conference's most-talented player in 6-2 senior center Serena Moore, who leads the MAAC in scoring and rebounding. Two solid complementary scorers in junior guard Christina Centeno and Maja Geryling (both 10.0 points per game). Its defense has been solid throughout, allowing 53.9 points per game, 17th-best nationally.
WHAT FAIRFIELD HAS: Its own "Big 3" in first-team all-MAAC pick junior forward Taryn Johnson (13.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and league leading .507 field-goal percentage and 1.9 blocks per game), sophomore guard Katelyn Linney (13.0 ppg., a league-high 74 three-pointers) and junior point guard Desiree Pena (9.9 ppg.). Also great defense. Its 51.7 points allowed per game is 5th-best nationally. And, confidence born from playing the best against the conference's best team, Marist, of any MAAC team ... a 54-52 loss to the Red Foxes on Feb. 6.
WHAT SIENA DOESN'T HAVE: A consistent fourth scoring option, which becomes illuminated in games like this past Sunday's when Centeno and Geryling struggled offensively and the Saints only produced 40 total points (although winning, 40-32, over Canisius). Reserve sophomore forward Lily Grinci could be that missing piece. She had a career-high 18 points against Niagara in early February.
WHAT FAIRFIELD DOESN'T HAVE: Same as Siena ... not enought scoring outside of its top three players. The Stags also lack the inside size/strength to negate a player like Moore, who had 27 points and 15 rebounds in the most-recent meeting of the two teams. Fairfield also lacks depth. Only six of its players have logged an average of 11 minutes of playing time per game. And, Johnson has struggled in head-to-head matches with Siena's Moore averaging 6.5 points and 4.0 rebounds in the two meetings with the Saints.
HOW SIENA CAN WIN: By getting big performances out of Moore and solid offensive contributions by Centeno (a third-team all-league pick) and Geryling. Continued good defensive work. Siena should have some confidence coming in, having beaten Fairfield in both regular-season meetings, owning a win over third-place Manhattan and going overtime at 2nd-place Loyola before losing.
HOW FAIRFIELD CAN WIN: Pretty much the same formula as Siena ... and, no two teams more-closely resemble each other. Johnson will need a big game, despite giving up five inches matching up with Moore. Linney and Pina have to make perimeter shots. Fairfield should have some confidence it can do some damage in the tournament, mostly based on nearly beating Marist earlier this season. But ... the Stags come in on a four-game losing streak and haven't won a game this season (0-8) against any of the top four teams.
WHAT'S AT STAKE: A berth in Saturday's semifinal round and the unenviable likelihood of having to try to beat Marist.