All things considered, it’s an advantage for Fairfield.
How big of one, though, Stags head coach Jay Young isn’t sure.
“It’s just another odd thing that comes up in this year,” Young said Monday during a MAAC men’s basketball teleconference with reporters, “where you’ve played four games and your opponent has played none.”
That’s the case ahead of Siena’s season-opening game Friday at Fairfield. The Saints have played no games, the Stags have played a bunch . . . but the teams each own the same number of wins.
Young joked that Siena might find itself overconfident if its watched too much of the Stags’ early games, but Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello said his healthy respect for what Young values in a team won’t allow for the Saints, the MAAC’s preseason favorite, to take 0-4 Fairfield lightly on Friday when league play gets underway.
“It’s no secret,” Maciariello said of Fairfield’s strengths. “They’re a defensive-minded team. They’re tough. They’re physical.”
And they certainly have more game experience this season. The Stags have played Hartford twice, Providence and Stony Brook so far this season. Only one of those defeats — a 66-61 one against Hartford — took place on Fairfield’s home court.
While Siena only has five returning scholarship players from last season and hasn’t played yet this season because it needed to cancel several non-conference games for pandemic-related reasons, Young described the Saints as “familiar,” a nod to the Saints returning their top players in Manny Camper and Jalen Pickett, a duo that averaged 29 points, 14.5 rebounds and 9.2 assists per game last season in MAAC play. Camper and Pickett were each All-MAAC first-team selections last season, while Pickett was named the MAAC Player of the Year.
“And we’re going to have to come up with a plan, as best we can, to stop them,” Young said.
SCHEDULING WORK CONTINUES
Playing a non-conference game or two prior to league play starting up didn’t come to fruition for the Saints, but Maciariello said Monday that he is still working on scheduling games against non-MAAC foes.
“I still want to give our guys a non-conference opportunity,” Maciariello said. “I think they deserve that for not having a Thanksgiving and not having a Christmas with their families. They’re going to be here to remain safe.”
Siena was supposed to spend Thanksgiving at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut to play games in “Bubbleville,” but the program ended up spending the holiday in quarantine after multiple Tier 1 members tested positive for COVID-19.
Siena’s first — and, currently, only — scheduled non-conference game is a Dec. 22 matchup at Drexel. Since Siena’s players won’t be heading home between that game and the team’s Jan. 1 MAAC game against Monmouth, Maciariello said he is seeking to add a non-conference game on Dec. 24 and another on either Dec. 28 or 29.
‘WE HAVE PROGRAM STANDARDS’
Siena announced Friday night that it had dismissed junior Dana Tate from the program, a development that Maciariello declined further comment on that night beyond a brief statement released through the school.
Monday, Maciariello offered a bit more on the departure of Tate, who never played a game for the Saints after transferring to Siena from Rhode Island.
“We have program standards that need to be lived up to on a daily basis, and that’s why he’s not here anymore,” Maciariello said of Tate, whose Rhode Island career closed with a multiple-game suspension.
Siena also announced Friday that walk-on Jason Hawkes is no longer on the team’s active roster so he can “focus on his academics,” but left open the possibility the junior could rejoin the team.
CHANGE ON DISPLAY
Earlier this year, the MAAC adjusted its bylaws to allow the conference and commissioner Rich Ensor greater flexibility to reschedule games related to “unforeseen conflicts.” Amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, those changes codified the conference’s ability to shift games around rather than simply cancel a contest or make one team forfeit to another.
Ensor said Monday that a scheduling change the conference made last week was representative of that new ability. With Monmouth needing to postpone games because of a recent pandemic-related pause of its in-person activities, the Hawks’ original Dec. 11-12 opponent — Iona — was rerouted to play at Quinnipiac.
The Bobcats originally were without a MAAC opponent for this upcoming weekend. Instead, they will host Iona, while Iona and Monmouth will move their games against one another to Feb. 26-27, the weekend left open by the conference for games postponed because of issues related to the pandemic.
Ensor said the Iona-Monmouth-Quinnipiac situation was a “good test” for the league, especially since it also needed to work with its broadcast partners since the Friday game involving Iona — and Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino — will be shown on ESPNU.
“But,” Ensor said, “if we get a lot of [games needing to be rescheduled] going on at the same time, it will get challenging and we’ll have to see how normal it gets as we move forward.”