Good Wins: vs. Northern Iowa, two wins against Niagara
Bad Losses: vs. Wichita State, at Rider
1. Guard Play. Kenny Hasbrouck and Edwin Ubiles make up one of the best one-two punches in the country, averaging 29.4 points per game. At 6-foot-3 and 6-6 respectively, they cause matchup problems for smaller defenders. Hasbrouck had 30 points in the Saints’ 2008 NCAA Tournament 83-62 victory over four-seed Vanderbilt. With a Sweet 16 run, he could push himself into the 2009 NBA Draft.
2. Schedule. Nobody can fault the Saints for trying to avoid the big boys early in the year. But the fact they couldn’t get a victory over Tennessee, Wichita State and Oklahoma State in the tournament in Orlando or in road tests at Pittsburgh and Kansas made Fran McCaffery’s overlooked throughout the 2008-09 season. But those early-season challenges, and the NCAA Tournament win last year, have already given the Saints the mental toughness not to wilt under the pressure that is March Madness.
3. Experience. Siena returns all five starters from the 2008 season. Experience is usually a key component of the mid-major formula for first-round upsets.
1. Defense. The Saints are ranked 222nd in the country in scoring defense and 207th in field goal percentage defense. They proved against Northern Iowa in the Bracket Buster that they can get stops against a team that likes a slower pace, but were unable to hang this season against teams who like to get up and down the floor.
1. Hasbrouck’s injury. Kenny Hasbrouck, Siena’s best player and top offensive scoring threat, scored a team-high 19 points in the Saints’ 77-70 win over Niagara in the MAAC Tournament final, despite playing with an injured calf. Hasbrouck has told the Albany Times Union that he expects to be 100 percent healthy by the start of the Tournament next week. ”It should go away,” Hasbrouck said to the Times-Union. “I’ve been icing it and getting treatment nonstop.”
Second Round. The Saints will have to defend better than they have all season in order to earn a trip to the second weekend. But Siena is not a team that major-conference opponents will want to draw on Selection Sunday. Just ask Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings.