While Stony Brook might be disappointed they missed out on another NCAA tournament chance, they will have to quickly regroup because they are running into a very tough Siena Saints team on Tuesday night to open the College Basketball Invitational. Here are a few things to watch in that game.
Battle of Young Point Guards: Don’t be mistaken, a lot of the core of both of these teams have their best years ahead of them. Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell likes to bring up the fact that he has nine scholarship players whose experience are sophomores or freshmen, on Tuesday they will be the veteran team as Siena is the 11th youngest team in the nation.
The battle to watch will be at the point guard position where All-MAAC Rookie Marquis Wright will take on Second Team All-America East sophomore Carson Puriefoy. Wright is an excellent defender and Puriefoy has very good quickness, so it will be great to see these two take each other on in a man to man defense. Every time out Wright shows you another reason to like him, he has shown a knack to make big plays and show off a different skill, from scoring, distributing, to being in the right place at the right time to grab crucial rebounds. We might be denied this matchup because Puriefoy might be assigned to cover Siena’s top shooting threat Rob Poole like he was to Albany’s Peter Hooley on Saturday. Poole said on Sunday that he played against Puriefoy eight times in high school in New Jersey.
Stony Brook’s Zone Struggles: If Seawolves fans thought Albany’s 2-3 zone gave them fits, they will be in for a world of hurt against Siena’s zone, which they are almost guaranteed to see against Jimmy Patsos’ team on Tuesday night.
On Saturday, Stony Brook struggled to move the ball into the post at all once the Great Danes threw a zone at them and settled for jump shots, most of the time settling for long two-pointers. Taking those long contested two’s would be the worst move on Tuesday they could think of. The Saints use their 2-3 zone to extend teams out from the perimeter, so instead of trying to get you to take three’s, they’re trying to turn you over and guards like Wright excel at that. Plus the Seawolves, who usually invite a running game, may not want to get into a fast paced affair considering Siena’s depth, but missing long two’s will guarantee plenty of Saints run outs in transition.
The Seawolves attack a zone in three ways, they go over the top with alley oops, dribble penetrate and kick or try to shoot over it from the three-point line. They didn’t try the first and didn’t make enough three’s for the second or third to have much impact on Saturday. It will be interesting to see if Stony Brook can solve their spacing problem against the zone and prove that they can work the ball to the baselines and high post to give them another way to attack it.
Big Men on Display: One reason the CBI is a great way for teams to develop is they can work on certain matchups. America East Player of the Year Jameel Warney is a top level talent playing at a mid-major school, at times he can play like a man amongst boys, but the last month of the season he has struggled to stay at 100% after spraining his thumb. He fights through it and has still made opponents pay with a quick first step and the ability to get under the basket like a guard past post up big men. It will be interesting to see how Siena plays Warney and try to prevent his passing ability out of the post, if one team has the pieces to frustrate the sophomore it could be the Saints. Siena could have Brett Bisping be the primary post up defender and try to let Imoh Silas or Lavon Long be secondary defenders to crowd the Seawolves leading scorer and rebounder. The Saints weakness though is drawing fouls and they let opponents get to the line as much as any team in the country, which Warney and his teammates could exploit when they draw contact.
Bisping, who Patsos has raved about all year and said so after the Canisius loss will be key to breaking the Seawolves big men up. “Brett Bisping might have improved as much as anyone in the country at the mid-major level,” he said following a career-high 21 point performance. Bisping and Long will present matchup issues for Warney and Eric McAlister, as Long does a lot of the things well that Sam Rowley did to tear through the Seawolves defense on Saturday. Siena, this season, has prided itself on being able to grab offensive rebounds and the Seawolves defense prides itself on cleaning up after missed shots. It will be interesting to see if the Saints athleticism can win out over the Stony Brook front court.
Six Degrees of Siena Basketball: This one is for Albany Times Union reporter Mark Singelais, who is great on twitter, covers the Saints and can usually find a way to relate any college basketball story back to Siena. So here are a couple, this is done in the most sincere form of flattery as well to get some bullet point facts out about this matchup.
- Stony Brook’s first ever postseason victory was an NIT win over UMass last season. The Minutemen beat the Saints 64-63 that season at the Times Union Center on November 28, 2012.
- In the second round of the NIT the Seawolves drew Iowa, coached by former Siena head coach Fran McCaffery. They were dealt their largest defeat of the season by a 75-63 margin.
- McCaffery admitted last season that he offered current Stony Brook big man Jameel Warney when he was in high school.
- Siena’s last victory against an America East team came against Albany on December 5, 2012. They have lost their last four games: two each against Albany and Vermont. Evan Hymes had 21 points, Rob Poole had three points, they and Marcus Hopper who came in for two minutes are the only current Saints who played in that victory.
- Over the last two seasons, Stony Brook is 5-0 against MAAC teams, with victories over Marist (twice), Canisius, Rider and Manhattan. They have never met Siena.
- Quote from last October, when Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos was at Loyola (Maryland), on Stony Brook’s Steve Pikiell, “Steve’s a good guy and a good coach. He’s a good man. He’s one of the rare good people in our business.”
Ryan Restivo covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and America East conference for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.