Here's another in the series previewing MAAC teams.
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2011-12 RECORD: 0-2 in MAAC play, 3-7 overall.
2010-11 RECORD: 8-10 in the MAAC, 13-18 overall.
COACHES' PRESEASON PREDICTION: 6th in the MAAC.
KEY RETURNEES (Stats from this season): 6-8 junior forward O.D. Anosike (13.1 points, 12.1 rebounds), 6-3 senior guard Kyle Downey (12.7, 4.5, 2.4 assists), 6-8 senior forward Brandon Walters (6.6, 6.2), 6-6 senior forward Owen Wignot (2.8, 1.8).
KEY LOSSES: Forward Ryan Rossiter (18.7, 13.2), guard Clarence Jackson (14.7).
NOTES: After losing three of the program's all-time better players after the 2009-10 season, the expected drop-off occurred last season. And, then, more graduation losses (particularly Player of the Year Rossiter) have been joined by some bad luck. Before the season started, the program had two freshmen forwards declared ineligible for the season due to a new NCAA rule mandating players finish high school within a specific time frame. And, then, returning starting point guard Rakeem Brookins was lost to the season with a back issue and potential starting forward Davis Martens was also lost for the season after hip surgery. It has left the team in the hands of 5-7 freshman point guard Evan Hymes, who has performed admirably (14.3 points, 3.2 assists). Anosike has also made the expected step forward, and is the No. 3 rebounder nationally. Downey, fully healthy for the first time in three years, is having a strong season thus far ... The team has played short-handed through the early portion and, then, had freshman guard Davonte Beard (22.7 minutes per game) opt to leave the program, citing homesickness ... And, returning senior Owen Wignot, expected to be a major contributor, has been dealing with a head injury, missed several games and has yet to be effective since his return. The team basically plays seven each night. Beard's defection will be off-set by the return of 6-6 sophomore Trenity Burdine later this week.
HOW SIENA CAN SUCCEED: By avoiding more personnel losses, and even that won't be enough for the program to remotely think it will return to the recent glory days of three straight NCAA appearances (2008, '09, '10). But recruiting with an all-but-set starting five in place during that run was difficult and the program is paying the price right now. The team needs to be more consistent, not only game-by-game, but within games. A big win over cross-town rival Albany was indicative of what the Saints can do on their best night. But, shortly thereafter came a lopsided loss to Fordham, picked to finish last in the Atlantic 10. Siena's best nights will come when most of its players are having strong games, but that doesn't happen every night.
PREDICTION: Saint fans, never patient during down seasons, seem to be enthused by the team's relatively strong play even in most of its losses thus far. But, the predicted (by coaches) sixth-place finish was made before all the preseason personnel losses and, now, looks optimistic. But, with expected return of the two ineligible front-court players, the return from injuries of Brookins and Martens and the experience gained by younger players bodes well for the future.