Siena draws Purdue for first round of NCAAs

The Siena Saints have been waiting since last Monday to find out who they will play in the NCAA tour
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The Siena Saints have been waiting since last Monday to find out who they will play in the NCAA tournament.

On Sunday, they waited some more.

And some more.

Finally, toward the end of the Selection Sunday show, Greg Gumbel of CBS announced that the Saints had drawn fourth-seeded Purdue (27-5), and will play a first-round game at 2:30 p.m. Friday in Spokane, Wash. Siena (27-6) was seeded 13th for the second time in the last three years.

“Last year, I told the guys we were probably going to be sitting here for awhile, and it was in and out, finding out right away,” senior point guard Ronald Moore said. “The excitement is waiting to see your name pop up, and the tension kept building and building. Finally, for our name to get called, it was a sigh of relief.”

“Last year, it was over in about 30 seconds,” junior center Ryan Rossiter said. “It was very nerve-racking this time. I was actually surprised by how nervous I would be the whole time. Obviously, we already know we’re in the tourn­ament, but the whole time I’m sitting there, I think I was more nervous now than I was Monday night. It was tough.”

The fact that Siena, which beat Fairfield in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship game last Monday to qualify for the NCAAs, will play Friday and not Thursday could be beneficial, since junior shooting guard Clarence Jackson sprained his left ankle late in Saturday’s practice.

He walked in to the Alumni Recreation Center on crutches to watch the Selection Sunday show with his teammates and hundreds of fans who sat in the bleachers in front of a giant TV screen.

X-rays were negative, but he will continue to ice his ankle, which he rolled after attempting to block a shot, throughout the week.

“I’m taking it day by day, right now,” he said. “I’ll try get the swelling down.”

“I’m hoping I can play. I’m hoping, because this is the moment I live for. You don’t really get this opportunity every year. If I can play, it’s a blessing in disguise, but if not, I’m going to sit there and root my team on.”

“We’re going to need Clarence,” senior swingman Edwin Ubiles said. “We’re going to need everybody.”

“We feel for him. When he went down, he was upset,” Moore said. “We told him to stay positive. The good thing about it is it’s not broken, so even if he doesn’t make it to Friday, hopefully, we can win for him and he can play on Sunday.”

This is the second year in a row that Siena will face a Big Ten opponent in the first round.

The Saints beat Ohio State, 74-72, in double overtime last year.

Siena’s coaching staff was prepared for a long night of research on the Boilermakers, who won their first 16 games and were knocked out of the conference tournament by Minnesota on Saturday.

Robbie Hummel, perhaps their best player, went down with a torn ACL against Minnesota on Feb. 25, and is out for the tournament.

The junior helped Purdue reach the Sweet 16 last year.

“They’re a very impressive team, a lot of talent,” head coach Fran McCaffery said. “They really defend. I love [E’Twaun] Moore, [Chris] Kramer. Obviously, when I watched them, [Robbie] Hummel was playing, and they were prob­ably destined to be a one seed, so it’s going to be a difficult op­ponent.”

“I’ve been watching them and got a good feel for them,” Moore said. “They’re a great team. Losing Robbie Hummel was definitely a big hurt for them toward the end of the season, but they have other great players. They’re a defensively sound team, so we know we’re going to have to take smart shots.”

The Saints, who were a No. 9 last year, were projected to be a double-digit seed this year.

Most bracket experts had them at No. 12.

“We felt like we had a great body of work, it’s a quality seed, McCaffery said. “We had a quality seed two years ago, we had a great seed last year, we got another really good seed this year. The committee does a really good job of being fair to everybody. It’s not easy. It’s not an easy task.

“We’ve got to get out there and get acclimated to the time change.”

“There’s a lot of relief. Unfort­unately, we’d like to stay a little bit closer, but it happened, and we’ve got to go down there and take care of business,” Ubiles said. “I think it’s a fair seeding. We weren’t really worried about that.”

The Saints and Boilermakers have never played each other.

Siena is 2-4 all-time against Big Ten opponents.

Categories: College Sports

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