Thursday, March 1, 2018

Saints look to make MAAC tourney run from No. 10 seed

Despite MAAC Tournament being its most wide open in years, Jimmy Patsos and Siena are opting for pragmatic approach as Saints begin postseason tonight against Quinnipiac.

With the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament being as much of a crapshoot this season as it has been at any point this decade, now would be a good point to rehash the fact that Siena has experience coming from out of the clouds to cut down the nets on Monday night, doing so as a No. 7 seed in 2002, when each of the top three seeds were eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Seeded in the No. 10 slot this time around, the Saints have a fairly winnable game in front of them tonight when they take on Quinnipiac in the opening round on their home floor inside Albany's Times Union Center, but any thoughts of advancing and possibly upsetting No. 2 seed Canisius for a second time this year will have to wait.

"I hate to use the cliché of one game at a time, but it is one game at a time," head coach Jimmy Patsos admitted as Siena (8-23) looks to atone for one of the more taxing seasons in the program's recent memory when they tip off after 7 p.m. tonight. "It's just survive and advance, and see if we can get through. There's been some great teams in this league and I do think there are some really interesting matchups coming up, but I'm only worried about Quinnipiac right now."

The Saints were swept in the regular season by the Bobcats and first-year head coach Baker Dunleavy, losing a one-point decision on New Year's Day in Albany, which now becomes a neutral site with all Siena banners and signage removed for the tournament setting. And while the record may not reflect it at first blush, Siena has received admirable contributions from a number of sources, namely forwards Evan Fisher and Prince Oduro, the latter an All-Rookie selection.

"He lived up to his expectations," said Patsos of Oduro when his accomplishment was announced earlier this week. "One thing about Prince is for a couple of minutes here and there, he can get a little down, but overall, he kept a really good attitude. He was our best defender and he really rebounded. He never had two bad halves."

One thing Patsos has had to deal with in spades this season is the increased player development in the face of graduating four 1,000-point scorers last May, then having to mitigate the departure of Nico Clareth in early January before freshman point guard Roman Penn went down for the season shortly thereafter with a foot injury. But for one of the MAAC's coaching deans, in the spotlight of one of the conference's flagship programs, the road traveled is merely the start to what he hopes is a fruitful March run.

"Let this be the beginning of the journey," Patsos said. "We played Quinnipiac really tough at our place. Down there, they kind of got the better of us, so I know they're a different team. They've done a great job turning the thing around down there, and I'm looking forward to playing Thursday. It's great for our fans, it's great for the community. I hope everyone comes out, and it's going to be a tough, 40-minute battle."

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