Here's another in the series previewing MAAC teams.
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2011-12 RESULT: 8-10 in MAAC play, 14-17 overall. Defeated Manhattan, 82-80, in overtime of the MAAC tournament's quarterfinal round. Lost to Loyola, 70-60, in the semifinal round.
KEY RETURNEES: 6-8 senior forward O.D. Anosike (15.0 points, 12.5 rebounds per game last season), 5-8 sophomore guard Evan Hymes (13.4), 6-5 sophomore forward Rob Poole (7.0, 3.3), 5-9 sophomore guard Rakeem Brookins (9.0 in the 2010-11 season; sat out last season with a back injury).
KEY LOSSES: Guard Kyle Downey (13.3), forward Owen Wignot (7.3), forward Brandon Walters (6.8, 6.0).
KEY NEWCOMERS: 6-8 forward Imoh Silas, 6-8 forward Lionel Gomis, 6-7 forward Brett Bisping, 6-5 guard Ryan Oliver, 6-4 guard Rich Adu.
NOTES: Siena observers perceive this as a crucial year in terms of third-year head coach Mitch Buonaguro's continued employment at the school, but the veteran mentor has already shown an ability to succeed, at least in a relative sense, with a 14-17 overall finish a year ago with a roster that included just six serviceable players. Those six saw 95 percent of the on-court minutes, and nearly 98 percent of available minutes after first-semester games. No MAAC coach has ever done more with less ... Siena is off to a 2-3 start this year, somewhat expected when one of the team's starting guards (Brookins) and the top small-forward reserve (Trenity Burdine, a 6-6 sophomore) were suspended for the season's first three games (academic-related issues) ... The team is not only re-acclimating itself with them (both missed last season with injuries), but is still relatively young. Silas and Gomis are both first-year players after both had to sit out last season at Siena due to a new NCAA rule related to finishing high school within a specific period of time ...And, three key reserves are freshmen ... Right now, Siena only has three players who saw significant minutes last year, and two of them are sophomores ... The team, though, has a requisite "star" in Anosike, who led the nation in rebounding last year (12.5), and has an even higher average (13.2) through five games this season. But, he comes with a proverbial Achilles' heel, 43.6 percent accuracy (or, lack thereof) from the foul line ... Sophomore guard Evan Hymes, who had more assists than turnovers (115-105) as the team's point guard last year, is having problems taking care of the ball so far (28 turnovers, 15 assists). But, he and Brookins form undoubtedly the quickest backcourt in the MAAC and, in theory, should cause match-up difficulties at both ends. And, both are capable of handling the ball ... The team's third scoring option has become Rob Poole, who has stepped up nicely (11.4, 5.6 so far), producing significantly better than last year's numbers ... Anosike, Hymes, Poole and Brookins are a nice "core four," although the later three are all sophomores and young teams often have more than their share of inconsistencies ... Anosike is the only senior on the roster, and the only junior is Davis Martens, who hasn't yet fully recovered from hip surgery that kept him out last season ... Bisping, right now, looks like the most-ready-to-play of the freshmen and his development will be interesting to watch ... Despite all the youth, there's much talent in place and Siena's future looks bright for the next few years after this one.
SIENA'S STRENGTHS: Clearly, the best big man in the conference in Anosike. Although he's not an overly gifted scorer, he gets enough points while controlling the boards as well as any MAAC player in many, many years. Hymes, Poole and Brookins are all capable scorers. And, there's enough talent in place for the team to legitimately go four or five deep into the bench, a year after the team had a one-man bench.
SIENA'S WEAKNESSES: Experience. Four of the team's top five scorers are sophomores, and two of them (Brookins and Burdine) didn't play last year. After that, the next four leading scorers are freshmen. Anosike is the team's only senior and, right now, there's no junior in the playing group.
REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS: Season-long progress. The sophomores, at least, have a year's playing experience. And, the two "big" freshmen, Silas and Gomis, were able to practice with the team last season. It's clearly possible that the Saints could grow up fast and become very competitive by the time league play rolls around. And, Buonaguro clearly showed he knew how to coach last season. Don't expect a 20-win season overall. But, a better than .500 finish in the MAAC is well within reach, and that would be good enough for the Saints to finish somewhere from third to sixth this season.