LOUDONVILLE — Give or take a few, the Siena College men’s basketball team heads into each of its games with around 30 set plays it plans to use.
That, though, only is a fraction of the Saints’ playbook, an ever-changing entity that exists both in video form and as a PDF for players to consume.
In total, how many plays are in Siena’s collection?
“We were at 362 at one point,” said Siena head coach Jamion Christian, whose team plays 7 p.m. Thursday at Fairfield in a MAAC game. “We’ve cut that down to 159 now.”
That is not to say, though, that each member of the Saints knows the ins and outs of each of those plays on a day-to-day basis. More the way it works is that the Siena coaching staff identifies the plays it wants to use in an upcoming game, then makes sure the players are ready to execute those specific sets.
“We really scout opposing defenses, which I think is atypical of a lot of college basketball teams,” said Siena assistant coach Graham Bousley, who serves as the team’s offensive coordinator. “We look at the matchups, figure out which we’ll want to exploit, and then we build out specific quick-hitters and sets for each game from there. . . . Some games we have more plays and some games we have less, but the nice thing is that as these guys develop their chemistry — and we have really smart players, too — they can see how the game is going and help with adjustments.”
Those adjustments are easier to make because of the way Siena, which has consistently ranked in the top half of the country this season in offensive efficiency according to kenpom.com, has established its offensive philosophy. Various offensive actions and movements are the Saints’ building blocks, and their assortment of plays combine those elements in different patterns to create mismatches and shot opportunities.
“It’s like football in that way,” Christian said. “That’s how our stuff is built; it’s all built upon itself. It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure book. There are different layers you can combine. There is a set at the beginning, then things you can flow into from there. Then, for each game, we change [our available playbook] to fit into that game.”
There are certain sets that Siena always keeps within its playbook, and Christian said those tend to be the “favorite plays” of high-usage Saints such as senior Evan Fisher and freshman Jalen Pickett.
“But you run different stuff based on how they’re going to defend you,” Christian said. “You’re mixing and you’re matching.”
The Siena coaching staff is also evaluating. Like nearly everything that happens on the basketball court during a Siena game, the Saints’ coaching staff members are charting the successes and failures of given plays.
“That way,” Bousley said, “we can go back and see what worked and what didn’t work, and figure out our counters from there.”
Christian said Siena judges each play on characteristics such as shot quality, execution and spacing. If the ball happens to go in the basket or not isn’t necessarily a primary concern.
“So it’s about the play within the play,” Christian said. “We can make a 3 at the end of the play and still get a zero for our execution.”
The available playbook for Siena (2-3, 7-11) will be different Thursday against Fairfield (2-5, 5-14) than when the teams meet next month, and changes to what is available for the Saints will be different from Thursday to when they play Saturday against Manhattan.
“We just want to put our guys in the right positions each game,” Christian said, “and that changes with each game.”