Siena basketball closer to non-conference plan

Siena is expecting to start practices on Oct. 26. (Gazette file photo)

Siena is expecting to start practices on Oct. 26. (Gazette file photo)

Categories: -The Daily Gazette, College Sports, Sports

LOUDONVILLE — Carmen Maciariello chuckled Tuesday as he said it.

But, yes, the Siena men’s basketball program is moving closer to having a completed non-conference schedule and a concrete plan for how it will prepare for its 2020-21 season.

“My whiteboard has been erased and rewritten a hundred times,” Maciariello said of the ever-changing nature of putting together a plan for a season set to be played as the country continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

College basketball teams are able to start practice Wednesday, but Maciariello said the Saints’ plan is to start official practice on Oct. 26. That will allow the team a month of full practices prior to the sport’s Nov. 25 opening day, which Maciariello said he expects the Saints to spend playing a road game.

“I think that’s important for our guys’ mindsets,” Maciariello said of setting start dates, even if they are not 100% confirmed. “As much as you want to talk about getting better every single day, which is our approach, these are still 18-to-22-year-old kids that want to compete and play.”

Siena is already able to hold training sessions that include on-court work and time in the weight room. For those workouts, the Saints gather in groups of up to 10 people, a count that includes both players and coaches.

Maciariello said a general timeline has taken shape for the Saints’ non-conference season. After opening Nov. 25 on the road, the Saints are likely to play three games at Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Arena between Nov. 28 and Dec. 1, then play another non-conference game before their Dec. 8 MAAC opener at Rider.

Playing a sixth non-conference game on either Dec. 22 or 23 is expected.

“Just been trying to piece this schedule together, and it’s coming together pretty nicely,” said Maciariello, who didn’t confirm any opponents since the game contracts remain unfinalized.

Siena has long been rumored to play multiple games at Mohegan Sun Arena, where a bubble-like environment is being set up to host games involving a number of teams.

Siena is coming off a 20-10 season that it ended with a 10-game winning streak prior to the sport shutting down in mid-March because of concerns related to the pandemic.

At that point, the Saints — the 2019-20 MAAC regular-season champions — were two wins away from securing their first bid to the NCAA tournament since 2010.

MAKING PROGRESS

Without being able to have full-team workouts to this point, Maciariello said it’s been a challenge to build camaraderie and cohesion.

“But you just continue to fight for your culture every day,” Maciariello said.

The second-year head coach likes the way, though, that his team has handled itself within the limited activity it’s able to do. The Saints have been able to see some duos and trios work together on the court in 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 scrimmaging, and Maciariello appreciates the competitive fire shown during those segments.

“We’ve made sure we’ve hit on as many different things as possible,” Maciariello said.

FUTURE SERIES?

Maciariello said the Saints are pursuing a series of games with Army.

“We’re in talks for the 2021-22 season about starting up an ongoing series with Army,” Maciariello said.

Before the NCAA shifted the start date for games this season from Nov. 10 to Nov. 25 and the MAAC announced its league play will start Dec. 8, Siena was scheduled to play Army on Dec. 13 in Brooklyn.

TRANSFER CHANGE

According to a Sports Illustrated report Tuesday, the NCAA Division I Council is expected in January to approve a proposal that will allow players a one-time exception during their careers to the rule that transfers need to sit out one year before playing at their new school. That proposal, which almost was instituted prior to the 2020-21 season, is expected to be in play ahead of the 2021-22 season.

Currently, only athletes in baseball, basketball, football and men’s ice hockey are required — unless an NCAA waiver is granted — to sit out after transferring during their undergraduate years.

Maciariello said he expects the rule change to mostly affect “freshmen and sophomores at smaller conferences that play well,” which would put high-performing Siena freshmen and sophomores in that group.

“Those are the ones that will get poached by the bigger schools,” Maciariello said.

Additionally, a Stadium report Tuesday said that the Division I Council voted in favor of allowing winter athletes an additional year of eligibility due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Previously, fall and spring athletes were granted an extra year of eligibility.

STILL UNSURE

Maciariello said the Saints are still figuring out if they will play home games this season on campus or at Times Union Center in downtown Albany.

Also, Siena is still waiting on the NCAA’s decision regarding if transfer Harrison Curry will be able to play during the 2020-21 season.

More: Everything new from The Daily Gazette Wednesday, Oct. 14

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