What Are The Chances Siena Finishes Undefeated In Conference Play?

Michael HurleyContributor IJanuary 20, 2009

I know this may seem a little bit premature to be talking about this subject, but we are almost halfway through the conference schedule already.  When I previewed the Saints at the beginning of the year, I mentioned that Manhattan's 2003-04 conference record of 16-2 was "within reach barring injury."

They were lauded in preseason articles and projections, including some by myself, before being brought back down to reality in the Old Spice Classic where they lost all three of their games.  They have rebounded and since the tournament gone 12-2, with the only losses at Pittsburgh and at Kansas. 

Siena has an unblemished 8-0 record in MAAC play right now.  This matches the best start in MAAC history also by the Manhattan 2003-04 squad.  The Saints recently finished their first three game road trip.  It is the first of two three-game road trips in MAAC play for Siena this year.  

Siena is averaging winning by almost 10 points a game in the MAAC this year, 9.87.

At this point they have won at Loyola, at Manhattan, at Marist, and at Fairfield.  They also have beat Marist, Fairfield, St. Peter's, and Rider at home.  

The remaining 10 games, in chronological order, are Niagara, Iona, Canisius, at St. Peter's, at Rider, Loyola, Manhattan, at Iona, at Niagara, and at Canisius.  

Looking at the remaining schedule a couple things jump out.  First they have yet to play Niagara, Iona, and Canisius. Without having played one game against any of these three teams it is hard to have something to judge them by.  

I will attempt to do this anyway.  

First I will start with Canisius.  The Griffs are 1-7 in league play so far. There are many reasons Canisius is 1-7, the biggest being they just can't put the ball in the basket.  They are shooting 39 percent from the field, 25 percent from downtown, and 58 percent from the charity stripe.  

The team in preseason rankings was picked to finish eighth and looks like that may be a stretch.  This is a team they should beat at the Times Union Center and on the road. They have to be careful not to overlook them though as Canisius' only win came against a top-five MAAC team, Rider.

The Saints play Niagara Saturday and it should be a tough matchup. Niagara is at 5-2 in conference play and coaches around the league have said they could win this conference if Siena slips up.  

The Saints do have a week off to prepare for this game which they will need.  The second time they face them will be in the second three game road trip.  They have an 11 day break before the game to get ready.  Their practices are essential to them getting ready for these two games.  The game at Niagara could be the toughest of the year in the MAAC for the Saints.

Iona's 4-4 record may put them in the middle of the MAAC, but the four wins have came in the last five games. They beat Fairfield at home and Niagara on the road.  The one loss in the five games was by one point at Rider.  They are a dangerous team that keeps improving, three of the four losses have been by a combined four points.  

Siena has yet to be beaten at the Times Union Center this year.  If they can beat Niagara Saturday they should be able to hold the remaining four games this year.   This leaves games at Rider, at St. Peter's, and the final trio of games away, at Iona, at Niagara, and at Canisius.  The Niagara game should be the toughest of the five, with Iona, and Rider providing more than able challenges.  

In my breakdown I have Siena splitting with Iona and Niagara, winning at home, losing away, and sweeping the rest of their games.  This would give the Saints a 16-2 MAAC record, matching the Manhattan 2003-04 record.  With the 16-2 record a possibility, 18-0 may not be as far-fetched as it may seem.  

There is still a lot of basketball to be played and they can't overlook anyone in the up-and-down MAAC.