After a long break for final exams, the Siena Saints returned to the court for games against the College of Charleston and Holy Cross.
On Tuesday, the Siena welcomed the College of Charleston to the Times Union Center. After a back-and-forth opening 20 minutes, the Cougars took a 33-28 lead into the break. The College of Charleston put the Saints in their rear-view mirror as they used a 16-4 run to establish a commanding lead that they would not relinquish. The Cougars shot a blistering 66.7-percent in the second half to roll to an 83-58 win.
The College of Charleston shot 61.5-percent from the floor and outrebounded Siena 33-24. The Cougars held the Saints to just 38.9-percent from the field to earn the win.
Preseason All-CAA first team selection, Jarrell Brantley, led the College of Charleston with 23 points on a perfect 8-of-8 shooting, all of which came in the final stanza. Brantley also corralled five rebounds and dished out three assists.
Evan Fisher returned to the starting lineup for Siena after he missed two games with a lower body injury. The senior forward led Siena with 18 points, on 7-of-14 from the field, and seven rebounds.
The Saints traveled to Worcester, Massachusetts for a rematch against the Holy Cross Crusaders, who beat them, 57-45, in the Hall of Fame Classic in November.
Siena took a 31-26 lead into the locker room following a 16-3 run to close the half.
The Saints took a 10 point lead, 47-37, on a three-pointer by Sloan Seymour. Holy Cross, who shot 61.9-percent in the second half, ripped-off a 17-2 run and took a 54-49 lead on a jumped by Austin Butler with 6:39 remaining in the game. Siena refused to go away and regained a one point advantage (57-56) on a corner triple by Kevin Degnan with 2:17 left. Butler’s layup with 1:15 to go gave the Crusaders the lead for good. Caleb Green made a layup with 23 ticks on the clock to provide the final margin of 60-57. After missing a free throw, Jalen Pickett got the rebound tapped back to him, but misfired on a potential game-tying three-point attempt at the buzzer and Holy Cross defeated the Saints for the second time this season. Siena enters the holiday break after losing two consecutive games, giving them a 4-8 record.
The Crusaders shot 54.3-percent from the floor and held Siena to a 42.6-percent clip.
Butler led Holy Cross with 18 points, on 7-of-14 from the field, including 4-of-8 from deep, and five rebounds.
Fisher led the Saints with 17 points, on 8-of-14 from the floor, and nine rebounds. Pickett scored 14 points, on 6-of-13 shooting, pulled down four boards, and distributed eight assists. Jimmy Ratliff added 11 points off the bench.
Siena lost junior forward Sammy Friday for the rest of the season due to a lower body injury.
Player of the Week: Evan Fisher
This week’s player of the week for Siena was Evan Fisher. The senior forward returned to the lineup this week after sitting out against St. Bonaventure and Robert Morris with a lower body injury. Fisher averaged 17.5 points, eight rebounds and shot 53.6-percent from the field. It is clear that the Saints are a better team with Fisher on the floor. His play will be an integral factor if Siena plans to compete in the MAAC.
Up Next: Cal Poly
The Saints will look to snap their two game skid when they return home after Christmas to take on Cal Poly next Saturday in the non-conference finale. Tip-off is set for 2pm. The Mustangs are 3-8 and are coming off a 75-70 loss to the University of Texas at Arlington on Saturday. Cal Poly is led by Donovan Fields who is averaging 16.2 points and 3.9 assists per game.
Siena went to 4-6 this season after splitting a pair of contests on the road against St. Bonaventure and Robert Morris.
The Saints were clobbered by the Bonnies in the 2018 edition of the Franciscan Cup on Wednesday night. St. Bonaventure took control of the game with a 22-3 run to end the opening stanza to take a 42-16 lead into the break. Although Siena trimmed the Bonnies lead to 22 (55-33) on a three-pointer by Jimmy Ratliff with 11:59 remaining, St. Bonaventure never relinquished the lead they built in the first half. The Bonnies ended the game on a 26-7 spurt to secure the Franciscan Cup for the third time in as many years.
St. Bonaventure put on a clinic on both ends of the court. The Bonnies shot 55.9-percent from the field and held the Saints to 32.6-percent shooting and forced Siena into 15 turnovers.
St. Bonaventure was led by Nelson Kaputo who poured in 21 points off the bench.
Ratliff was the lone Saint in double figures. The North Alabama-transfer tallied 16 points off the bench and grabbed five rebounds.
The Saints played without senior forward Evan Fisher who left last Saturday’s game against Harvard with a lower body injury.
Siena looked to get back on the right track when they traveled to take on Robert Morris on Saturday.
The Saints took a 38-32 lead into halftime and built an 18 point advantage on a three-pointer by Sloan Seymour with 16:25 left. The Colonials were not done yet. Robert Morris used a 22-4 run to take a 67-65 lead with 4:26 to go. Jalen Pickett backed down his defender to tie the score at 71 with 41.7 ticks on the clock. Pickett missed the free throw that could have given Siena the lead. The Colonials’ Josh Williams missed a layup with 18 seconds remaining, giving the Saints the opportunity to win the contest on their final possession. The Saints did just that. Kevin Degnan nailed a triple with two seconds left to send Siena home with a 74-71 victory.
The Saints shot 50.9-percent from the floor and connected on 11-of-25 (44-percent) of their attempts from beyond the arc. Robert Morris shot 56.3-percent from the field, but only made six threes.
The Colonials were led by Williams who scored 19 points.
Siena was led by Pickett who netted 20 points, corralled seven boards, and dished out seven assists. Degnan, who hit the game-winning trey, added a career-high 19 points, on 7-of-13 shooting, including 5-of-8 from deep, and seven rebounds. Manny Camper shot a perfect 6-of-6 from the field and finished with 14 points and four boards. Ratliff earned his first start of the season and recorded a solid performance with 10 points and four rebounds.
Fisher was out for the second consecutive game nursing a lower leg injury, while Sammy Friday IV also sat out against Robert Morris with a lower body injury. Ratliff and Degnan both stepped up in their absences.
Player of the Week: Jimmy Ratliff
Although Degnan hit the game-winner and Pickett led the Saints in scoring, the unsung hero of the week for Siena was Jimmy Ratliff. The red-shirt freshman walk-on had his two best games of the season thus far against St. Bonaventure and Robert Morris. Ratliff averaged 13 points on 9-of-15 shooting, including 6-of-11 from distance, and 4.5 rebounds. Ratliff will need to continue to step up if Fisher and Friday IV are out for an extended period of time.
Up Next: College of Charleston and Holy Cross
The Saints have a long layoff before there next game. Siena will return to action next Tuesday, December 18 when they host the College of Charleston at the Times Union Center. Tip-off is set for 7pm. The Cougars are 7-2 and are coming off a 72-64 win over Charlotte. College of Charleston is led by Grant Riller who is averaging 21.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game. Last year, the Cougars defeated the Saints 68-60 in overtime in Charleston.
Siena will have an opportunity to avenge their earlier loss to Holy Cross when they travel to Worcester, Massachusetts to battle with the Crusaders on Saturday, December 22 at noon. It is very unusual to play a non-conference opponent twice in a season, but this game was scheduled not knowing that the two teams were going to play each other in the championship game of the Hall of Fame Classic in November. Holy Cross is 6-4 and are coming off a 79-63 loss to Rhode Island. The Crusaders won the first meeting over the Saints 57-45. Jacob Grandison led Holy Cross to the win with 24 points and four assists, while Fisher led Siena with 14 points, seven rebounds, and three assists in the loss.
If you’re like me, you’re probably feeling a little empty not having any college basketball to look forward to this weekend. Let’s take a step back to remember the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
This year’s “Big Dance” featured an upset for the ages, a Cinderella run that made a nun an international sensation, buzzer beaters, the agony of defeat and, most importantly, the best team won it all.
The National Champs: Villanova
Jay Wright did it. Two National Championships in three years. Villanova has become the program to beat in college basketball. The Wildcats dominated in March as they won all of their games in the NCAA Tournament by double-digits. Wright joined an exclusive club by cutting down the nets for the second time in his career as he joined Coach K and Roy Williams as the only active coaches to win multiple championships. National Player of the Year Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges will likely forego their senior seasons and enter the NBA Draft, but Coach Wright will bring back three starters, Phil Booth, Eric Paschall, and Omari Spellman, and Donte DiVincenzo, who came off the bench and scored 31 points in the title game on Monday. The Wildcats have been the most dominant program over the last five years and with Wright at the helm, there is a culture of winning in Philadelphia. Villanova will be back next year to defend their title and create a dynasty.
The Runners-Up: Michigan
Michigan was the hottest team in the country entering the NCAA Tournament and rode their streak all the way to Championship Monday where they ran into the buzz saw that was Villanova. Mo Wagner’s decision to return to Ann Arbor paid dividends as he led his squad back to the National Championship game for the first time since 2013. John Beilein had the best defensive squad of his career that gave opponents fits throughout the month of March. The run to San Antonio almost didn’t happen as the Wolverines needed a buzzer beater by freshman Jordan Poole to get past Houston in the second round and led to one of the best celebrations of the Tournament. Wagner and seniors Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Duncan Robinson will depart, but Michigan will be back with a talented recruiting class next season.
We witnessed history in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. For the first time in history, a 16-seed upset a 1-seed in the first round. Many had hinted at the fact that an Ivy League school, Penn, presented the best chance for a 16-seed to take down a 1-seed in their match-up with Kansas. When that didn’t happen on the first Thursday of the Tournament, many thought we would have to wait at a chance for history until next year. Enter Jairius Lyles and the UMBC Retrievers. In the final set of first round contests, UMBC took the world by storm—both on the court and on Twitter. The Retrievers stayed with Virginia and did not back down when the game was tied at 21 at halftime. UMBC outscored the #1 overall seeed 53-33 in the second half, busting pretty much every bracket filled out this year as the Cavaliers were a favorite to win it all. The three point shooting and defense by the Retrievers sent Kyle Guy and the rest of the Virginia team home crying as the first #1 to lose to a 16-seed in NCAA Tournament history. Tony Bennett was without a key piece, De’Andre Hunter, that Friday night in Charlotte. Maybe this would not have happened with him in the lineup, but Bennett will have to wait another year for a chance at the Final Four.
K-State to the Elite Eight
Kansas State got past Creighton in the first round and instead of having to face Virginia, they were up against Cinderella UMBC in the second round. The Wildcats dispatched the Retrievers and then took down Kentucky in Atlanta to make the Elite Eight for the first time since 2018. More impressively, Kansas State made their run without the services of their leading scorer, Dean Wade, who suffered a foot injury in the Big 12 Tournament. Although they were unable to get past Loyola-Chicago and make the Final Four, the Wildcats may have saved Bruce Weber’s job.
Buffalo Beats Zona
Buffalo knocked out Arizona in the first round. The Wildcats were a favorite to make a run to the Final Four, but an impressive shooting performance and stout defense by the Bulls made for an early exit for Sean Miller’s team. With the outcome of the FBI investigation still unknown, the future of Arizona basketball is uncertain as they will lose Deandre Ayton, Allonzo Trier, and Rawle Alkins to the NBA and Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Dusan Ristic to graduation.
Sister Jean and Loyola-Chicago
Loyola-Chicago became the fourth 11-seed to make the Final Four and in doing so, their Team Chaplain Sister Jean became an international sensation at 98 years young. Donte Ingram’s buzzer beater to beat Miami was one of the highlights of the first round, but the Ramblers proved they weren’t done yet. They took down the 3-seeed Tennessee on a jumper in the waning seconds by Clayton Custer. Marques Townes’ dagger was enough to beat Nevada and advance to the Elite Eight where they blew out Kansas State. Their run came to an end with a loss to Michigan in the Final Four, but the Missouri Valley Champs took the world by storm in the month of March.
Nevada led for only 1:56 of its first two games of the NCAA Tournament, but managed to make the Sweet Sixteen. The Wolfpack trailed Texas by 14 points in the second half, but came back to win in overtime to advance to the Round of 32. There, Nevada erased a 22 point Cincinnati lead and came back to eliminate the second seeded Bearcats from the “Big Dance.” The Wolfpack lost to Loyola-Chicago in the Sweet Sixteen, but they will return most of their core from this year’s team and could be a top ten team next season.
Florida State to the Elite Eight
Many were saying that Florida State was the worst at-large team to receive an NCAA Tournament bid this year. The Seminoles proved the haters wrong and took down Missouri in the first round before they pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the Tournament, knocking off top-seeded Xavier in the second round to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Florida State’s run would not end there, as they took down a Gonzaga team without Killian Tillie. The Seminoles ended their season just short of the Final Four as they fell 58-54 to Michigan. If nothing else, they proved they belonged.
Texas A&M Takes Down the Tar Heels
In a season filled with ups and downs, Texas A&M’s NCAA Tournament run proved to be just that. The Aggies battled through injuries and suspensions to earn a 7-seed in the “Big Dance,” but drew the 10-seed Providence, who was one of the hottest teams entering the Tournament. Texas A&M ended the Friars’ season and went on to the Round of 32 where they pummeled North Carolina. In a poetic end to their tumultuous season, the Aggies were crushed by Michigan in the Sweet Sixteen. With Tyler Davis and Robert Williams both declaring for the NBA Draft, it will be interesting to see what the future looks like in College Station.
Marshall Shocks Wichita State
In a year where there were no 12-5 upsets, the 13-seeds stole the show. Buffalo beat Arizona and Marshall knocked off Wichita State. Jon Elmore’s sharp-shooting led the Thundering Herd past the Shockers and into the second round where they were ousted by in-state rival West Virginia, but an upset win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament is definitely something that Marshall, who finished fourth in Conference USA, should be proud of.
The 2-3 Zone Did it Again
Syracuse snuck into the NCAA Tournament as the last team to make the field, but the Orange were not satisfied with only receiving a bid. Jim Boeheim’s patented 2-3 zone puzzled opponents as Syracuse defeated Arizona State, TCU, and Michigan State, three teams averaging over 80 points a game to less than 60 on their way to the Sweet Sixteen. Their run was cut short as they fell 69-65 to Duke, but the NCAA Tournament run put a positive ending on a season where the Orange remained on the Bubble to the very end. If leading scorer Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett return, Syracuse could be poised to make another run in next year’s Tournament. Darius Bazley’s decision to decommit from the Orange and enter the G-League was unfortunate and leaves the team’s status for next season more uncertain, but Jalen Carey, Buddy Boeheim, and East Carolina-transfer Elijah Hughes will provide more depth at he guard position for next year’s team.
Game of the Tournament: Duke vs. Kansas—Elite Eight
The line in “One Shining Moment”—In the blinking of an eye that moment’s gone, couldn’t be more of a reality for the Duke Blue Devils as Grayson Allen’s potential game-winning rolled off the rim and out at the end of regulation. Kansas’ Malik Newman scored all 13 of the Jayhawks’ points in the overtime period to punch their ticket to San Antonio where they lost to eventual champion Villanova in the Final Four. Both Duke and Kansas will be title favorites heading into next season. Coach K and the Blue Devils have adopted the one-and-done strategy. The 2018-19 roster will look completely different for Duke. All five are their starters from this season’s team will be first round draft picks. Duke has the top recruiting class in the country next season as they welcome four of the top fifteen recruits in the country, including all of the top three recruits, R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson, and Cam Reddish, to Durham next fall. Tre Jones, the 12th ranked recruit and younger brother of 2015 Final four Most Outstanding Player, Tyus Jones, who also played at Duke, will also join the squad. Kansas is the way-too-early preseason #1 with Udoka Azubuike and Lagerald Vick returning. The Jayhawks have a pair of five-star guards coming to Lawrence in the fall: Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes. Bill Self will also add Memphis-transfers K.J. Lawson and Dedric Lawson and Cal-transfer Charlie Moore, all of which will be eligible to play next season.
The Road Begins Now
The 2017-18 season has come and gone and it was surely a wild one. Congratulations to the Villanova Wildcats who reign superior this year. The Road to the 2019 Final Four in Minneapolis begins now.
The NCAA Tournament is upon us. Let’s take a look at the Midwest Region. The one seed in the Midwest, Kansas, will look to cut down the nets in Omaha on their way to the Final Four in San Antonio. However, there are 17 other teams looking to do the same thing. Here’s what to watch for.
Upset Pick: #12 New Mexico State over #5 Clemson
New Mexico State is in the field of 68 for the seventh time in the last nine years. The Aggies have won six consecutive games, including a victory in the WAC Championship game over Grand Canyon. New Mexico State is led by Zach Lofton who is averaging 19.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. The Aggies defense will be the difference if they are able to upset Clemson. The Tigers dropped four of five games in conference play against teams ranked in the top 50 nationally in defensive efficiency. New Mexico State ranks fourth nationally and will look to stifle Marcquise Reed in their first round match-up.
Sleeper: North Carolina State Wolfpack
As a nine seed in the Midwest, NC State is my pick to be a sleeper in this region. The Wolfpack have been giant killers all season and have wins over Arizona, Duke, Clemson, and North Carolina. Allerik Freeman leads the team in scoring at 15.4 points per contest. With the resume and the wins they have, NC State will be ready and if they can beat Seton Hall, they will be a tough out for Kansas in the second round.
Pick to Win the Midwest Region: Duke Blue Devils
I expect chalk to prevail in the Midwest Region until the Elite Eight, where Duke will defeat Kansas and earn a trip to San Antonio for the Final Four. The Blue Devils are the most talented team in the country and enter the NCAA Tournament winners of seven of their last nine games. The key down the stretch for Duke has been their commitment to playing defense. The use of the 2-3 zone has allowed the Blue Devils to hold their opponents to 61.1 points per game over that stretch. Duke will rely on the senior leadership of Grayson Allen, but freshman big men Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. will be the key to the Blue Devils’ success if they can make it to the Final Four at the Alamo Dome.
Now that I’ve made my picks for who will advance to the Final Four, its time to discuss who will cut down the nets.
North Carolina def. Arizona
Villanova def. Duke
Villanova will defeat North Carolina in a rematch of the 2016 National Championship and the Wildcats will be crowned the Kings of College Basketball.
The Siena Saints lost their season opener to the College of Charleston Cougars 68-60 in overtime. Freshman Jordan Horn scored on a driving layup as time expired in regulation to tie the game at 53 to send it to overtime. Junior captain Nico Clareth fouled out in overtime which allowed the Cougars to escape with the win.
From the tip, it was a defensive struggle. The Saints used a 2-3 zone which the Cougars struggled against throughout. The Saints held the preseason CAA favorites to 32.9% shooting from the field and 20% shooting from 3. Likewise, the Cougars made it tough on the Saints to get anything going offensively. The undoing of the Saints was their carelessness with the ball on the offensive end. The Saints committed 24 turnovers, compared to just 6 for the Cougars.
The Saints were led by Clareth who scored 15 points and grabbed 4 rebounds. Offensively, Khalil Richard was a huge spark off the bench for the Saints, scoring 14 points on 4/7 shooting, 2/2 from 3, and 4/4 from the charity stripe.
After missing the exhibition against LeMoyne, Evan Fisher started and scored 8 points, corralled 6 rebounds, dished out 3 assists, and blocked 4 shots. After playing behind Brett Bisping and Javion Ogunyemi for two years, the Saints will need Fisher to fill the void and be a force in the frontcourt all season long.
Freshman Prince Oduro is clearly the member of the freshman class that is most capable of contributing on a consistent basis. Oduro recorded a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, but at times struggled as he committed 7 turnovers.
Siena will return home to face “Dunk City” and the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles on Monday, November 13 at 7pm at the Times Union Center.