Sitting two games away from the end of his first regular season with the Siena Saints, head coach Jimmy Patsos said that his effort to rebuild the program is “on schedule.”
“I wouldn’t say ahead, we’re on,” Patsos said when asked whether his team was ahead of schedule. “I thought this team would be pretty good. I didn’t know how good Marquis Wright was going to be, I thought he’d be good, but I knew [Rob] Poole was going to be good and I thought [Evan] Hymes would be better.”
For a group that loses no scholarship seniors, the program has been quickly rebuilt from a group that won eight games last season. The junior Poole leads the team with 15 points per game and he has been surrounded by a core of young contributors. The freshman point guard Wright has almost been irreplaceable on the floor and his classmate Lavon Long won MAAC rookie of the week this past week. Poole’s classmate Hymes has played well in spurts, but has tended to play better at home than on the road.
The last four games demonstrate how much Patsos has reenergized the program and how competitive they have been this season in conference play. Two weeks ago, the Saints dropped a game at Marist on a turnover in the final seconds which led to a three-pointer for a one-point loss and fell to Canisius at home in triple overtime. However this past weekend Siena defeated Manhattan by four, their first win against the top four teams in the conference, and completed a season series sweep of Rider on the road.
“We have to win a close game here or there, but Sunday was the equalizer,” Patsos said. “We’re right about where I thought we could be.”
With the victory on Sunday, the Saints evened up their record in conference play for the sixth time this season and have a chance to lock up a top-five seed if they can stay above Rider, Marist and St. Peter’s in the standings.
For Patsos, the finish to the season has come a long way from a rough season start. The first-year head coach of the Saints acknowledged earlier in the year that “brutal” may have been an understatement of how the schedule stacked up in his first season. Siena’s second trip to the Old Spice Classic was set up years ago and the matchups against Memphis, St. Joseph’s and Purdue twice came at the wrong time in the program’s development.
“The problem with the Old Spice is you have to play a money game,” Patsos said referring to their first meeting at Purdue prior to the event in Orlando. “It could kill your chances at an at-large bid for the CIT, which is important to us because we went 0-4 at the Old Spice. Without that we could have an even record or at least go .500 and probably get in.”
Siena enters the final weekend of conference play with a 13-16 record. It appears the only way the Saints will be able to experience postseason play this season is if they win the MAAC tournament in Springfield, a task they could make less difficult if they clinch the fifth-seed this weekend.
“I would say we’re on schedule, not ahead, definitely not ahead because we can come in seventh,” Patsos said. “I know we can’t come in 11th, 10th or ninth, so we’ve done our job because we were picked 10th.”
The Saints travel to Quinnipiac for the first time on Thursday looking to avenge an overtime loss at home and follow that up with closing out their home schedule with MAAC newcomer Monmouth on Sunday.
Ryan Restivo covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference, and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.