Here's another in the series looking at conference programs.
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2010-11 RECORD: 8-10 in MAAC play, 13-18 overall.
2010-11 RECAP: Truly a season of ups and downs in every sense. It started with much optimism, particularly after an early non-league victory over Georgia Tech followed by a conference win over Iona. But, there wasn't much after that. Injuries were a factor. Clarence Jackson, a preseason all-MAAC pick, missed nine games and played hurt otherwise. Four of the team's top six players missed at least three games each. Expectations are always elevated for Siena, often overly optimistically, and that was definitely the case this past season. The record was pretty much what could have been expected for a program that lost three of its all-time players after the 2009-10 campaign, which resulted in a third-straight trip to the NCAA tournament. Usually the loss of three players (Edwin Ubiles, Alex Franklin and Ronald Moore0 of that caliber is followed by a bottom-falling-out season. But, an exceptional senior season by center Ryan Rossiter almost single-handedly ensured that didn't happen. All things considered, 13-18 was about right for the Saints. There would have been a few more victories if health issues weren't so prevalent, but they were
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Most of it can be attributed to Rossiter, who became the first player to lead the MAAC in scoring and rebounding in the same season since Lionel Simmons did it in the 1989-90 season. Rossiter also finished second nationally in rebounding (13.2), and became just one of eight MAAC players ever to record more than 1,000 rebounds, finishing third all-time on that statistical list. There were also the early victories over Georgia Tech and Iona, signs that the team still was capable of something better than mediocrity when all went right, but that just didn't happen often enough. Sophomore O.D. Anosiki (8.9 points, 6.8 rebounds) developed into one of the MAAC's better post players and freshman point guard Rakeem Brookins (9.0 points, 4.1 assists) moved into the starting lineup in Siena's fourth game and looked like a quality successor in the program's long line of floor generals. Siena also finished relatively strongly, winning three times in a four-game stretch before getting eliminated in the quarterfinal round of the MAAC tournament.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Start with the graduation losses from the previous season, a rare loss of quality personnel in one year, coupled with the move of five-year head coach Fran McCaffery to Iowa. That top assistant Mitch Buonaguro took over the program, though, theoretically helped ease some of the transition. But, McCaffery did the program no favors, leaving the program berift of quality players other than Rossiter and Jackson (had he been healthy). Much of that, though, wasn't entirely his fault. The team's starting lineup was, basically, etched in stone over his last three years making bringing in recruits difficult. The result was this past season's junior and sophomore classes were comprised entirely of role players. And, then, Jackson's injury handicapped the team more and made double- and triple-team attention for Rossiter a nightly occurrence without Jackson's outside threat. The next-best player was Brookins, a freshman who spent much of the season trying to figure out how to play the point in college. It was easy to see that a continuation of the program's recent success wasn't going to happen. Still, the conference's largest fan following wasn't happy, and there was strong anti-Buonaguro sentiment from very early in the season. Patience is clearly not a virtue among some Siena fans, but it needs to be, probably for the coming year, too. Buonaguro is a basketball lifer, a well-respected practitioner of his profession who deserves the support of his own program's followers, at least until results come in predicated on players he recruited for the program.
WHAT'S AHEAD: Can't imagine things will be much better this coming season, but there is reason for optimism beyond that. Four recruits, two highly regarded front-courters, an intelligent 6-5 long-range shooter (Rob Poole) and a slashing guard (6-2 DaVonte Beard) combine as an incoming class that will likely be the foundation of the program's resurgence as they mature. Still, very few freshmen become immediate impact players. Saint fans should sit back, enjoy the growth of its young players and, then, understand that the team will improve as the youngsters advance in their respective careers. The cupboard, though, isn't entirely empty. Anosike remains a potent presence inside, Brookins has a year's experience, Kyle Downey (knee problems) could be a nice role player if he's healthy and Owen Wignot (hand injury) could be a nice contributor as a senior. Junior Davis Martens, a mobile 6-9 forward, flashed some signs last year as did 6-5 freshman Trenity Burdine. There remains enough in place for some more quality victories, but probably not enough of them.
PREDICTION FOR 2011-12: The ceiling is probably a .500 record. If Siena gets that, and avoids a play-in round position for the conference's post-season tournament it should be considered a successful season. If a couple of the freshmen are ready earlier than expected, though, it might be a little better than that.