A lot of ducking went into creating Siena-Northeastern matchup

Siena and Northeastern are stuck with each other today. Two strong mid-majors unable to schedule as
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Siena and Northeastern are stuck with each other today.

Two strong mid-majors unable to schedule as many schools from the so-called BCS conferences as they would have liked, the Saints and Huskies will square off at noon today in Siena’s home opener at the Times Union Center.

The game is part of ESPN’s 24-hour College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon, and will be televised live, with broadcast partners Sean McDonough and Bill Raftery returning to Albany after working the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship game last year.

Siena was the top vote-getter among the 28 teams not ranked in the latest Associated Press top-25 national poll, with 125 points.

The Saints face a difficult opponent today, though, one that mirrors Siena in several ways, like experience in the starting lineup.

“This team is arguably one of the top teams on our schedule,” Siena head coach Fran McCaffery said. “And we did that [scheduled Northeastern] deliberately. And so did they. Nobody would play them, nobody would play us, so we played each other. Everybody was ducking them.”

The Saints have won 21 straight at home, tied with Cornell for the third-longest streak in the country in Division I, behind Kansas and Utah State.

Northeastern was 19-13 last season, 12-6 in the Colonial Athletic Association and earned its first postseason victory since 1984, 64-62, over Wyoming in the College Basketball Invitational, before losing to UTEP in the second round.

The Huskies were ranked 13th in the preseason mid-major top 25; Siena was third.

“I’m very impressed with Northeastern,” McCaffery said. “They have excellent talent at every position. They’ve got size, they’ve got speed, they’ve got length, they’ve got shooters, experience.

“They’ve got four seniors that are all-league players, just like us, and we were reasonably close together, so we didn’t have to travel the country. It’s a game that made a lot of sense. The fact that it ended up on television speaks for what ESPN thinks of both programs.”

Northeastern’s top two players are Matt Janning, a 6-foot-4 guard from Minnesota who was named to the CAA preseason all-star first team, and 6-8, 254-pound forward Manny Adako, from Decatur, Ga.

The Boston school has only one player from New England, having recruited talent from as far away as California, Arizona, Michigan, Canada, France, Bulgaria, Texas, Tennessee and Cape Verde.

“They’ve got a number of different people who can handle the ball, so they don’t hurt themselves with crazy turnovers and goofy shot selection,” McCaffery said. “They play under control, they’re an unselfish team, they share the ball. They don’t have one or two guys that are going off on their own. That said, they do have a couple of players that they can go to inside and out when they really need buckets.”

Siena is coming off an 85-69 win at Tennessee State on Friday night in which junior Clarence Jackson scored 24 points in 21 minutes.

With more playing time on the horizon since the graduation of Kenny Hasbrouck, Jackson would appear to be a likely target of opposing teams, but McCaffery doesn’t expect teams to gameplan just for him, because the Saints are deep.

“I don’t think they can double Clarence,” McCaffery said. “They can try. We’ve got too many offensive weapons to double one guy. The fact that that question is being asked is probably a good one, because he is a tremendous weapon. It makes you think twice about zoning us, although I’m sure we’ll see some. We’re probably going to see some tomorrow.”

Siena received signed national letters of intent from two recruits on Monday.

Trenity Burdine is a 6-5 swingman from Reading, Pa., who averaged 16 points a game for Reading High last year, and Melsahn Basabe is a 6-7, 215-pound forward from Glen Cove (St. Mark’s) who played for the AAU New York Gauchos.

Siena freshman forward O.D. Anosike played 16 minutes against Tennessee State, and scored five points and grabbed three rebounds while wearing a clear plastic facemask to protect his broken nose.

“I think that’s limiting him a little bit,” McCaffery said. “He was playing phenomenally before he broke his nose. The more minutes he gets, the more comfortable he’ll be, and then he’ll get the mask off and be even better.

“You don’t breathe the same, you don’t see everything the same. He said to me, ‘Coach, I can’t breathe,’ and I said, ‘Well, breathing’s overrated. Just keep playing.’ ”

Categories: College Sports

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