Tough non-conference scheduling helped a young Siena College basketball team come on strong at the end of the season and win the CBI championship last year.
Although this year’s slate is without an impact tournament like the Old Spice Classic, the Saints still face a formidable schedule that includes three Atlantic-10 programs on the road.
“Both last year’s and this year’s schedule are tough, but maybe last year’s was a little tougher because of the Old Spice,” said second-year head coach Jimmy Patsos. “But with three A-10 teams on our schedule and teams like Vermont and UAlbany, we’re still playing against a lot of teams that played in the postseason.
“Vermont, which is our opener this year, is an NIT team, and UAlbany went to the NCAAs.”
The Saints will play nine non-conference games, including their season opener at UMass Nov. 14. Vermont comes to the Times Union Center three days later for Siena’s home opener.
Key games on the schedule include a pair of “Cup” games. Siena hosts UAlbany for the Albany Cup Dec. 13 in a women’s/men’s double-header, and the Saints also play St. Bonaventure for the Franciscan Cup in Olean on Nov. 19.
“I’m really in favor of the Cup games, and I want to keep playing them forever. The fans are really invested in those games,” Patsos said.
Cornell, Bucknell, Fordham, Radford and Loyola, Patsos’ former team, are also included in the non-conference slate.
“I’m sure the Loyola game will be special, because they will really want to beat me,” he said.
“Obviously, it’s another really tough schedule. The first thing that jumps out at you is three Atlantic 10 teams on the road. The A-10 was the sixth-rated conference last year by the RPI.
“We are going to need our fans to support us once again. We were a good home team last year only because of our loyal fans.”
Patsos also noted that even though the Saints couldn’t participate in a tournament this year because of contractual obligations, they are already signed up to play in tournaments in both 2015 and 2017. Siena is also hoping to play in another tournament in 2016, perhaps in Hawaii.
“We are tentatively scheduled to play Georgetown in one tournament,” he said.
“John D’Argenio and I work together well in coming up with a schedule, and although we weren’t allowed to be in one this year, we will be in several in the years to come.”
Patsos said the non-conference schedule will complement a tough MAAC schedule.
“The key is playing a tough schedule without getting killed,” he said. “We already know we will play very tough games in the MAAC, because the MAAC is a tough league.
“One thing I like about the schedule is that it’s spaced out. We have a road game, and then we play a home game, and then it’s back on the road.”
14 — at UMass; 17 — VERMONT; 19 — at St. Bonaventure; 29 — at Loyola.
1 — at Fordham; 13 — UALBANY; 19 — at Radford; 23 — CORNELL; 28 — BUCKNELL.