Jimmy Patsos and Siena begin MAAC tournament against two-time reigning champion Manhattan in Saturday's quarterfinal. (Photo courtesy of Vincent Simone via Big Apple Buckets)
Siena begins their stint in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament Saturday, and as much as their contests are de facto home games for the simple fact that they play their regular season home games inside the Times Union Center, Jimmy Patsos refuses to buy into it.
"I think it's overrated," he said of the perceived home court advantage the Saints (20-11) might have this weekend as they tip off their tournament action against two-time reigning MAAC champion Manhattan (13-17) in the quarterfinals at 7 p.m. "It's a neutral court. We're not in our locker room. That being said, when we have fans there, that's good. The fans help."
"Iona's won it here before with Jeff Ruland as the coach," he continued. "Steve (Masiello) won it here last year, so it's a tiny bit of an advantage because we get a lot of fans, but fans help everybody."
Siena split their two meetings with Manhattan in the regular season, routing the Jaspers by 35 points at home in December before narrowly losing in three overtimes without Marquis Wright in January, but Patsos has not forgotten just who it is he and his team are facing.
"I'll tell you, they always play hard, they're always organized," he said of Manhattan. "Typical Masiello team, they're better as the year goes and he's got his rotations down. He put (Rich Williams) back in, (Tom) Capuano's been playing very tough, he's got him coming off the bench, (Calvin) Crawford's very good, we saw him in the beginning of January when we played them."
"That game we played here means nothing," Patsos elaborated, alluding to the Saints' 89-54 victory on December 4. "That was so long ago, it wasn't his team. But they get stronger as the year goes. His teams play so hard and they get used to the system. They're just relentless for 40 minutes."
What makes this matchup different from the two that preceded it is that each team has been different to some degree. In December, Siena took advantage of a Manhattan team decimated by injuries and lack of depth. When the Jaspers prevailed in January, they did so against a Saints team that had just lost Marquis Wright several days before to a stress fracture in his foot. Now, the junior point guard is back, and Steve Masiello has a full contingent of players to use.
"Of course it's different," Patsos assessed, "and I think that's what makes it cool. Now we've got our whole squad, he's got his whole squad, they're playing well and they're the defending champs. I've been saying all year, they're the defending champs. Until someone beats them, that's who they are, and I expect it to be a really, really tough game."
"'Quis is excited to play," he said of Wright seeing Manhattan for the first time in three months. "He's getting better as he goes, and we need somebody to match (RaShawn) Stores. Nico (Clareth) has got the real tough task of guarding (Shane) Richards, and from what I saw from Richards last night, (against Marist, when he scored 27 points) that was a little scary as the opposing coach. That was very impressive, but it's just going to be one of those tough 40-minute games."