Albany County

Siena men’s basketball set for Mohegan Sun Arena games

Jalen Pickett is shown at Siena's media day. (Erica Miller)

Jalen Pickett is shown at Siena's media day. (Erica Miller)

Categories: -The Daily Gazette, College Sports, Sports

LOUDONVILLE — The Siena men’s basketball team knows where its first two games of the 2020-21 season will be played.

Finally.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced Friday several more pods of teams that will compete inside “Bubbleville” in Uncasville, Connecticut at Mohegan Sun Arena. Siena is included in a pod with UMass and Delaware. A press release issued Friday from event organizers only lists Siena as playing between Nov. 25 and Dec. 2 at Mohegan Sun Arena, but the Saints expect to play their season-opening game on Nov. 26 vs. UMass and then play Nov. 28 vs. Delaware, barring any last-minute changes.

“I’m excited about it,” Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello said of the Saints’ likely Thanksgiving Day start to their non-conference season. “It’s something to be thankful about, for sure.”

While not announced Friday, the Saints are still expected to play a third game at Mohegan Sun Arena on Nov. 30. The opponent for that date has not yet been confirmed.

Games at Mohegan Sun Arena are being put on by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Gazelle Group. In all, more than 30 teams are expected to compete within the bubble-like setting as the college basketball season attempts to get started amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The NCAA’s Division I season is allowed to start Nov. 25, a delay from its original Nov. 10 start. Siena only officially opened its preseason Monday with full practices, during which coaches are required to wear masks, as are players when they are not actively participating in on-court work. 

“We’re just trying to get ready every day,” said Maciariello, whose team is expected to enter the 2020-21 season as the MAAC’s preseason favorite. “A lot of teams have the same types of hurdles.”

In the event of a positive coronavirus test for a player, though, the NCAA’s recommendation is that “schools should consider placing the entire group under quarantine for 14 days.” Maciariello said that possibility is never out of mind for the Saints, as they prepare for a season following one in which they finished 20-10 and won the MAAC regular-season championship before seeing their season end with the cancellation of the in-progress MAAC tournament due to pandemic-related concerns.

“So we have to make the most of every second on the court,” Maciariello said of his team’s mindset, “and we have to make sure we get in as much as we can.”

But?

“Day by day, we get one step closer to playing games,” Maciariello said.

Last season, UMass of the Atlantic 10 Conference finished 14-17 and Delaware of the Colonial Athletic Association finished 22-11. 

From a season ago, Siena’s opening opponent returns three double-digit scorers, including reigning Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year Tre Mitchell, a 6-foot-9 center who averaged 17.7 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Notably, UMass also added Wichita State transfer Noah Fernandes in the offseason. 

“Good team,” Maciariello said. “Good challenge for us.”

The UAlbany men’s basketball team is also confirmed to play games at Mohegan Sun Arena. UAlbany will play LIU on Dec. 3, then either Drexel or Quinnipiac on Dec. 4.

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