men’s college basketball
Siena wants to avoid 0-3 start
Siena men’s basketball head coach Carmen Maciariello described himself as “embarrassed” following the Saints’ worst home loss in nearly three years.
Three nights later, how much better can the Saints be when they take the floor at Times Union Center?
That’s the most-pressing question for Siena. The non-conference portion of a team’s schedule is designed to challenge it and allow it to grow, but the wins and losses still count. Only two games into its season, Siena still has plenty of time to get right before it plays any MAAC games, but the Saints have done little consistently well through their opening week of play.
“We’ve shown flashes,” Maciariello said after Saturday’s 20-point loss to Delaware, “but flashes don’t win games.”
The team’s depth is hindered by injuries and the squad is coming off its first back-to-back, double-digit losses since January 2020 when the Saints lost by a dozen and then 10 points in MAAC action. After its five losses last season were by a combined 13 points, Siena’s opening losses this season were by a combined 48 points.
While the competition has been stiff with games against nationally ranked St. Bonaventure and CAA-preseason-favorite Delaware, things don’t get easier for the Saints with tonight’s 7 p.m. home game against Yale, the Ivy League’s preseason favorite.
Regardless of the opponent, Siena’s focus remains the same. Maciariello said last week that these early-season games are about “Siena vs. Siena,” as the new-look Saints figure themselves out, and the team has a lot of work to do on that front.
“We’ve got to build this thing on the cornerstone of our defense, with rebounding and being gritty in the half-court, being able to pick up three-quarters court,” Maciariello said. “We haven’t seen that yet, to be honest with you.”
Siena has played its first two games without four scholarship players, and it’s unclear if any of Jared Billups, Jordan Kellier, Javian McCollum and Taihland Owens will be available against Yale. The program, too, is still waiting to see if Andrew Platek — a Guilderland native who played previously at North Carolina — will gain the NCAA waiver needed to play this season for the school, which he is enrolled at this semester.
In its opening two games, no five-player lineup delivered a positive point differential for Siena in both games. Regardless of who plays tonight for the Saints, Siena needs an improved effort if it’s going to avoid its first 0-3 start since the 2017-18 season, which was Jimmy Patsos’ last leading the program.
Siena is coming off back-to-back seasons that saw it win at least a share of the MAAC regular-season crown, but this season’s team — which only includes three returning scholarship players — still is searching for its identity.
“These guys have to learn how to win,” Maciariello said. “This group hasn’t learned how to win yet.”
BACK ON THE COURT
After not playing the 2020-21 season due to restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Yale has started this season with a frantic schedule. Following an opening-night win last Tuesday against Division III Vassar, Yale earned a 20-point win Friday against UMass, lost 80-44 Sunday against Seton Hall and spent Monday preparing for its game in Albany.
“No rest for the weary,” said Yale head coach James Jones, a UAlbany graduate.
Through its opening games, Jones described his club as being in a similar position to Siena.
“We’re really trying to figure out our rotations and depth,” Jones said. “We’re working through what we’re doing, and it’s a work in progress.”
Saratoga Springs native and Albany Academy graduate August Mahoney has played a significant role for Yale. Playing his second college season, the 6-foot-4 guard is averaging six points and 4.3 rebounds in 21 minutes per game.
“He’s gotten off to a pretty good start for us. August is a Swiss-Army-Knife guy; he does a lot of different things for us,” Jones said.
Siena’s rough start, Jones said, is just that — a start. While the Saints’ roster is so much different from a season ago, Jones said what’s similar — Maciariello’s presence leading the program — is enough for him to believe Siena will quickly turn its season around.
“He’s won the last two [regular-season] championships in that league,” Jones said. “He’ll have a chance to win another, I’m certain.”
Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy announced Monday that the downtown Albany arena currently known as Times Union Center will soon be renamed “MVP Arena” after the county awarded the building’s naming rights to MVP Health Care.
The arena’s name change will occur at the start of 2022.
Part of the deal is a $1.4 million “annual ‘Innovation Fund’ that will help grow attendance at events at the MVP Arena, support our local businesses and help Albany County build on the progress we’ve been making,” while MVP Health Care will pay $600,000 annually for the arena’s naming rights. The contract between the company and county is for five years, with two separate five-year renewal options.
A press release from Albany County said that Berkshire Bank, MTX Group and Transfinder also submitted proposals during the renaming process for the building.