Monday, October 6, 2008
2008-09 Opponent Breakdown: Siena College
In a tournament loaded with some of the most highly rated programs in the nation, it could be a school from the tiny MAAC(Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) that is the dark horse to win the Old Spice Classic. Returning all 5 starters from a team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament, the Siena Saints have the look of an elite team playing in a mid-major conference. I can assure you that they will have the full attention of Bruce Pearl and the Tennessee Volunteers for the opening game of the Old Spice Classic. It is likely that the Saints will start the season on the cusp of the top 25, and a good showing against this loaded field could vault them on their way to a historic season.
Last Season's Results: While Siena did win the MAAC regular season and tournament championships, it was not an easy road for the Saints. Despite upsetting Stanford early in the season, the Saints struggled against a relatively soft non-conference schedule. These struggles included losses to Cornell and James Madison, as well as being blown out by Memphis and Syracuse. However, once the Saints hit the heart of conference play, it appears that a new team emerged. This was highlighted by the dismantling of Boise State in their BracketBusters game. The Saints finished the regular season with a 13-5 mark in conference play, and tied for the league championship with Rider. After coasting through the MAAC conference tournament, the Saints were awarded a 13 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and a 1st round matchup with Vanderbilt. Siena was obviously undaunted by this SEC foe, as they drilled the Commodores 83-62. While their season ended against Villanova in the second round, the foundation was set for a terrific 2008-2009 season.
New Faces: With the entire starting five returning, it is not likely that any of the newcomers will see significant playing time. In fact, the one player who had a chance to be a consistent member of the rotation is no longer enrolled at Seina. Wolfgang Geiler, who had transferred from UC Irvine, left the team in September after signing a professional contract with a team in Germany. The two freshman who are expected to play a role down the line are Kyle Downey and Owen Wignot. Of the two, it is Downey who could see some playing time this season. The 6'2 guard is an extremely hard worker who is blessed with good athleticism. However, his role this season will likely be as a 3 point shooter off the bench. Owen Wignot, is an undersized but athletic forward, who has the potential to have an impact in a couple of years. However, he must put on some weight and become more basketball savvy before he can see significant playing time.
Players to Watch: While most of the key contributors from last season return, it is the trio of Edwin Ubiles, Kenny Hasbrouck, and Alex Franklin that will carry the Saints. All three scored over 15 points per game last season, and much of the same is expected for this year. The leader of the team is Kenny Hasbrouck, who is the MAAC Preseason Player of the Year. Hasbrouck averaged 16.1 ppg, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.2 assists last season, which was highlighted by a 30 point performance against Vanderbilt in the NCAA Tournament. Last season he was named the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Player of the Year. The leading returning scorer for the Saints is the electrifying Edwin Ubiles. The junior is an elite athlete who scores in a variety of ways. Although he is blessed with great athleticism, Ubiles is also a consistent shooter as he shot 42% from beyond the 3 point line. Ubiles is also known for his jaw-dropping dunks and will be looking to build on the 17 points per game that he averages last season. The best post presence for the Saints will be Alex Franklin. The 6'5 junior plays very tough and is built like a horse. He sounds very similar to GU's Ira Brown, and it is Franklin that the Saints will turn to in the half-court offense. The junior averaged 15.1 points and 7.8 rebounds last season, and he should be a consistent double-double threat this season.
TKR's Concern-O-Meter: While I think that Siena has the talent to make a Sweet 16 run this season, I would be quite confident if the Zags and Saints were to matchup. Siena is successful because it can outrun and wear down its opponents. However, if the Saints are to matchup with a team as deep and athletic as GU, then they must prove they can play a half-court game. GU should not be run out of the gym by anyone this year, as the Zags can go 8-9 deep and do not lose much when they go to their bench. GU is more talented the Siena, and should be undaunted by the speed that Siena plays at. I would be very alarmed if I were a Georgetown fan and had to face Siena in the second round of this tournament, as an extremely structured team like the Hoyas might struggle with the fast pace of Siena.
What We Are Watching For: Siena is as talented in the backcourt as any team in the nation. It would be a treat for fans to watch Steven Gray defend Kenny Hasbrouck as well as Micah Downs going up against Edwin Ubiles. However, I don't think that Siena has anyone who could defend Jeremy Pargo or Josh Heytvelt. Heytvelt in particular could have a field day against the Saints, as their tallest player is listed at 6'8. If Heytvelt is back to his sophomore year form, then this is a game that he could dominate in the paint and on the glass. GU fans should also watch Alex Franklin, as the undersized PF proves that a player like Ira Brown can be very successful at the PF position. Last season, Franklin scored 14 points and grabbed 9 rebounds against Robin Lopez, the 7-footer from Stanford.