Thanksgiving week will be a busy one for the Capital Region’s Division I basketball teams.
From Sunday through the end of next weekend, those four teams from UAlbany and Siena will combine to play 13 games in six states. Each of the teams will play in a tournament-style event, and several regular non-conference games are on the schedule, too.
The top games of local interest during the upcoming stretch will take place at HP Field House located at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. That’s where the Siena men’s basketball team — which also plays Sunday at Harvard — will play three games as part of the 2022 ESPN Events Invitational. Siena opens that tournament Thursday against Florida State of the ACC, and high-major programs Memphis, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Seton Hall and Stanford make up the rest of the field.
Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello said his team’s focus since its tough defeat against Army had been on this weekend’s game at Harvard, a rematch of a game the Saints won 72-69 last season. When his team makes its way to Florida, the focus will similarly be a game-to-game one, but the aim is clear, too.
“We want to go win the tournament,” Maciariello said. “That’s the goal.”
Siena will be an underdog in any game it plays in the tournament. The field includes multiple possible fun future matchups for the Saints, who scored memorable wins against Stanford in both the 1989 NCAA tournament and the 2007 regular season, and could see a familiar foe in former Saint Peter’s coach Shaheen Holloway. Depending on outcomes, Siena could play Stanford in its second game in Florida, while a matchup with Holloway’s Seton Hall could be played on the tournament’s final day.
“I’d love to play Shaheen at his alma mater,” said Maciariello, who is leading the program he graduated from in 2001.
Holloway took the job at Seton Hall this past offseason after guiding Saint Peter’s on its remarkable run to the Elite Eight. Before its season-ending loss to North Carolina, Saint Peter’s had won 10 consecutive games after a double-digit loss in Albany against Siena.
The Siena women’s basketball team, besides playing a game at Duquesne, will play in Vermont’s Nov. 26-27 tournament. The Saints will play Oakland to start that tournament, then either Vermont or Stonehill.
Like its Albany Cup rival, the UAlbany men’s basketball program plays in Florida this upcoming week. The Great Danes are participating in the Sunshine Slam in Daytona Beach, and will play Monday against Austin Peay before playing either Bucknell or Presbyterian the next day. Then, UAlbany returns to New York to play next weekend against … Florida Atlantic.
The UAlbany women’s basketball program will head to Las Vegas for a three-game set that starts with a Friday matchup against UNLV in the school’s Thanksgiving tournament. The Great Danes will be tested with three games in three days.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to play some great competition,” UAlbany head coach Colleen Mullen said.
ONE THAT GOT AWAY
According to the kenpom.com database, Siena’s chance to leave Wednesday’s game against Army with a win went all the way up to 98.3% before things crashed for the Saints.
“Our details, fundamentals, toughness,” were what Maciariello said betrayed the Saints on a night that saw them lead by seven points with just a minute to go in regulation before falling 96-94 in overtime.
The Saints had Thursday off before regrouping to face Harvard. The rest day sounded like it was needed heading into Friday’s practice.
“We’ll watch the last eight minutes,” Maciariello said. “There’s a lot to go over.”
While Wednesday’s loss dropped Siena to 2-1, Harvard earned a one-point win that night against Northeastern to improve its record to 3-1. Chris Ledlum leads Harvard this season with 19 points per game on 54.7% shooting, plus 7.3 rebounds per game.
Javian McCollum leads Siena in scoring at 20.3 points per game. The sophomore guard is the first Siena player to score at least 20 points in the first three games of a season since Marquis Wright did that as a senior back in the 2016-17 season.