In their preseason poll, MAAC coaches predicted that Marist would finish last in this season's conference standings.
After getting a first look at the Red Foxes, this typist's reaction is this ... if Marist is the MAAC's worst team, then this is a real, real good league.
Tuesday night at the Times Union Center in Albany, Marist played unanimous preseason conference favorite Siena far better than the final 77-60 score indicates.
In fact, the Red Foxes held a 58-57 lead with 11:06 remaining before Siena went on a 15-0 run over the next 8:30 to end the suspense.
Siena's late spurt could almost be expected against a Marist team with only nine scholarship players that includes three players making their Division I debuts this year and three others who played very minor roles until this season.
Add to those woes Tuesday the fact that the team's top front-court player, 6-foot-7 senior Ryan Schneider, was ill and far less than his best, and the team's point guard, junior David Devezin, was limping noticeably with a sore heel.
Despite its difficulties, first-year coach Chuck Martin, formerly an assistant for the past two seasons at Memphis, has his team playing a spread offense that makes advantages of the team's overall quickness and shooting.
It's a style similar to what Siena played in coach Fran McCaffery's first season (2005-06) when that Saint team was also picked for last and had limited numbers yet wound up 10-8 in MAAC play and 15-13 overall.
Marist might or might not approach that won-loss record, but with one viewing as an indication it looks like the team could finish significantly north of the league's bottom position.
The Red Foxes already served notice of that, even before Tuesday's match with the Saints. In their MAAC opener, they knocked off a solid Iona team, 51-50, on sophomore guard Dejuan Goodwin's 15-foot jumper with 1.4 seconds remaining.
Schneider, who began his career at Vermont, had five 3-pointers against the Gaels. Despite feeling less than 100 percent against Siena, he still had three 3's, and has made at least one trifecta in all eight Marist games thus far (22-of-58 to date overall).
I was really impressed with Marist. I think they will finish around 5th or 6th in the MAAC. No way they are a last place team. When Siena goes to Potown it should really be a tough game as this one was!
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