LOUDONVILLE — During this season of near-constant schedule changes, the Siena men’s basketball team was slated to play Canisius at several different points.
So it was more that the Siena coaching staff had to rework its game plan and scout ahead of its regular-season ending MAAC series against Canisius, rather than come up with something entirely new.
“But we never really had the chance to work with the team on it,” Maciariello said earlier this week.
That was how things went during the 2020-21 MAAC season, which closes for the Saints with back-to-back 7 p.m. games Thursday and Friday against head coach Reggie Witherspoon’s club. After Siena couldn’t start playing games this season until January because of three nearly consecutive pandemic-related pauses to close out 2020, the first-place Saints (11-3 MAAC, 11-3 overall) are on track to play a 16-game MAAC season, four shy of a full campaign, as long as their games against Canisius (6-4, 6-4) are played as scheduled.
Siena can clinch the MAAC regular-season championship — and next week’s top seed for the MAAC tournament — with a win Thursday or if Monmouth loses against Rider. While there are still a variety of scenarios that could play out near the top of the MAAC standings, Siena will either be the No. 1 or the No. 2 seed for next week’s tournament, regardless of this week’s results.
When Canisius has been able to play this year, the Golden Griffins have played pretty well. After posting a 1-3 record to start its season, Canisius won the first five games it played in 2021 before losing its last game, a 66-53 setback at Fairfield.
Siena is coming off its first series sweep since mid-January. The Saints started 6-0, then split its next three series before taking two games last weekend from Manhattan.
The Saints played their second game against Manhattan with only seven scholarship players available. Maciariello said earlier this week that freshman Aidan Carpenter (ankle) should return against Canisius, while it seemed unlikely that either of graduate students Harrison Curry (COVID-19 protocols) and Nick Hopkins (leg) will be available for the Saints.
While there will be no fans in attendance Thursday at UHY Center because of restrictions related to the pandemic, Siena will celebrate its senior night prior to the contest.
‘QUITE A CHALLENGE’
Canisius has played a MAAC-low 10 games heading into its games at Siena and is coming off a game-free weekend after its rivalry series against Niagara was canceled.
During Tuesday’s MAAC coaches teleconference, Witherspoon said his program “had some guys who’ve been in quarantine for over 140 days” this season.
“The season has been, obviously, very unique for everybody. It’s been quite a challenge for us, in that we’ve just played these 10 games, most of which have been on the road,” Witherspoon said. “So it’s kind of tough to get a gauge on how you’re doing because after 10 games, you’re usually starting conference play — and we’re almost done with it. But we just operate on the thought that we control the controllables.”
Canisius has had very few of those during its campaign. Of its 10 games, Canisius played four of them in a stretch of seven days, and another four of them in a span of nine days.