Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Patsos and Siena made the grade, but have room for improvement

Even after 21-win season that reaffirmed upward mobility in Siena basketball, Jimmy Patsos is adamant about need to not only maintain their foundation, but improve upon it. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

With 21 wins and their second postseason appearance in three years under Jimmy Patsos, it's easy to say Siena's resurgence last season was an overall positive.

However, the Saints' third-place finish in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference behind regular season champion Monmouth and tournament champion Iona leaves the indelible reminder that there are greater heights to be attained, and Patsos is not shying away from that.

"I don't give plus or minus," he said of his grading system, reviewing a 21-13 campaign that ended with an opening-round loss in the College Basketball Invitational to a Morehead State team that eventually played for that tournament's championship. "I give A, B, C, D, F, and we got a B. Our program was very solid, and I'm really pleased with that."

"To get an A, we would have had to go really far in the CBI; Morehead State was really good, they outhustled us and beat us by a couple," Patsos continued. "I really was proud of our team, really happy with the way we were progressing, but we're not there yet. I want to play Monday night. I want to get to the NIT, go further, win a postseason tournament."

In light of the goals that still exist in Loudonville, Siena still accomplished a great deal this past season, with the MAAC quarterfinal victory over a Manhattan team seeking its third straight conference crown chief among the list of accolades.

"Beating Manhattan was a great accomplishment," Patsos proclaimed. "I would like to emphasize that because Steve (Masiello) is a great coach, they were the defending champs, they played really well, so that was a big deal for us. Then we played Iona, we came out and we didn't have a great first half. We weren't good enough, they beat us, and they went on to win the title. We're losing to good teams, but we've got to start beating the good teams."

Just as he did following his first season at the helm, when Siena won the CBI, Patsos brings the bulk of his rotation back next year, losing only Ryan Oliver and Imoh Silas from a roster that returns a pair of all-MAAC honorees in senior forwards Brett Bisping and Javion Ogunyemi. In addition, point guard Marquis Wright is healthy entering his senior season, while Lavon Long projects to be a Swiss Army knife of sorts for the Saints as reigning MAAC Sixth Man of the Year Nico Clareth makes the jump from freshman to sophomore, not to mention a young and burgeoning corps of reserves that make Siena one of the more well-rounded units in the conference as the Saints once again threaten Monmouth and Iona for MAAC supremacy. A non-conference schedule featuring the likes of Kansas, George Washington, Hofstra, St. Bonaventure, UNC Asheville and Florida Gulf Coast; all of whom were postseason teams in some capacity, will no doubt put Patsos' lofty goals to the test early and often.

"We had the toughest non-conference RPI schedule in the MAAC last year," he boldly stated, "and we will again this year. The MAAC said they wanted us to play a tougher out-of-conference schedule, we're doing it."

While the strong non-league slate will harden Siena for the battles that occur in MAAC play, there is still the matter of getting over the hump against the top teams in the league, something Patsos was adamant about fixing, especially against the likes of Monmouth and Iona; as well as Saint Peter's, who the Saints have not beaten in Jersey City since Fran McCaffery's final season in 2010.

"Overall, we got a B," he reaffirmed. "We were 1-4 against Monmouth and Iona, and that's not going to get it done. We're doing all the right things, knock on wood. The disappointing thing was we didn't have enough to beat Iona, then we didn't have enough to beat Morehead State to advance. We've got to get a little tougher. We've got to want it a little more. We got a B, that's really good. Now, I want to get an A, but I also want to maintain our B average, if that makes any sense."

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