LOUDONVILLE — With plenty of time between games, there has been ample time for the Siena men’s basketball program to evaluate its first batch of games.
What’s become clear to Carmen Maciariello, Siena’s first-year head coach, from his team’s 2-3 start?
“We have enough talent in this building to win,” Maciariello said at Wednesday’s practice on the school’s campus. “We have enough talent in this building to lose. It’s what we do with it.”
Ahead of Saturday’s game at Colgate, which is part of a 36-day stretch that sees the Saints play three games, Siena has won its home games and lost its road games. In its last two games, Siena had chances to win at both Harvard and Yale; the Saints had an opportunity to take the lead at Harvard in the final seconds and went to triple-overtime at Yale. Late-game execution was an issue in both losses against Ivy League schools, but that’s not unexpected for a group that has three new starters from a season ago.
“It just tells us how good we can be,” Siena junior Manny Camper said of the closeness of those defeats.
Guaranteed to play at least 30 games this season, Siena still has plenty of season to go to figure out how good they can be during the 2019-20 season. From Siena’s first five games, here are five key takeaways.
MAKING A LEAP
Camper’s per-game averages during the 2018-19 season: 6.4 points and 5.4 rebounds.
Camper’s per-game averages this season: 13.4 points and 11.8 rebounds.
It’s a small sample of games from which to judge, but the 6-foot-7 Camper looked like an improved player during the preseason and projected as someone who could thrive playing in Maciariello’s up-tempo system in which the junior essentially serves as the team’s 4 after playing the 2 last season. Camper is averaging 0.33 rebounds per minute compared to last season’s 0.21, and he is averaging 6.8 free-throw attempts per game compared to last season’s 3.1.
In a win against St. Bonaventure, Camper had 17 rebounds. In the triple-overtime loss at Yale, Camper had 19 rebounds. Camper credited his improved rebounding prowess to the Saints “doing a great job boxing out” as a team, but Maciariello said there’s more to Camper’s big rebounding numbers than that.
“He just does a great job of being a competitor,” Maciariello said.
Siena wanted to take fewer 3-pointers this season.
But it didn’t want to couple that with making a lower percentage of the ones it took.
A season ago, Siena attempted 25.7 3s per game and made 33.9% of them. This season, the Saints have made 28.4% of the 20.4 3s they’ve attempted each game.
Maciariello said Wednesday that he wants Siena to “never take over 30 3s in a game — maybe even over 25,” but he wants the long-range shots the Saints do take to come after the ball has gone inside, either off a pass from a player posting up or a perimeter player putting pressure on an opposing defense off the dribble.
“We have to know who we are,” Maciariello said. “Where is our bread buttered?”
Too often for the coach’s liking this season, Siena has taken 3-pointers early in the shot clock or off the dribble. Sophomore guard Jalen Pickett said the Saints need to aim to shoot “feet-set 3s” as the season moves along.
“We’re really good when we’re attacking the basket,” Pickett said.
After sitting out and not playing last season for the Saints, the expectation was that transfers Elijah Burns and Don Carey would immediately step into Siena’s lineup this season and produce.
Through five games, that duo has delivered.
Burns is averaging a team-leading 16.8 points per game, while Carey is right behind him at 16.4. Burns is also leading the team in overall shooting at 60.4%, while Carey leads the club in 3-point shooting at 37% (for players who have attempted at least two 3s per game).
BEYOND THE CORE FOUR
Burns leads the team in scoring, Carey is right behind him. Then, Pickett is right there at 16 points per game and Camper is at 13.4.
Siena’s next-best scorers are senior Sammy Friday and freshman Jordan King at 3.4 points per game apiece.
The Saints want the foursome of Burns, Camper, Carey and Pickett to dominate the ball, but need at least a little more production from elsewhere as the season goes along. In all, Saints outside of Burns, Camper, Carey and Pickett have scored 18.1% of Siena’s points through five games and played 35.7% of the team’s minutes.
UPPING THE PACE
As soon as he was hired, Maciariello promised his Saints would play faster than prior head coach Jamion Christian’s group.
That promise has been kept.
According to kenpom.com, Siena ranked No. 352 — second to last — in adjusted tempo last season at 67.8 possessions per game. Through Tuesday’s games, Siena ranked No. 95 in adjusted tempo at 71.2 possessions per game.