LOUDONVILLE — In winning its last nine games, the Siena men’s basketball team did something its program hadn’t in a decade and secured the MAAC’s regular-season title.
Siena head coach Carmen Maciariello is hopeful his program can also make its first NCAA tournament appearance since that 2009-10 season this year, as well as match another feat from 2010, when Siena had three players — Alex Franklin, Ronald Moore and Ryan Rossiter — earn first-team all-conference spots. The MAAC will announce this year’s all-league teams on Monday morning.
“I think Jalen, Elijah and Manny should all be on that first-team line,” Maciariello said after Friday’s win clinched the Saints the No. 1 seed in the upcoming MAAC tournament. “I think they’re all just very big cogs to what we do.”
That’s sophomore Jalen Pickett, fifth-year senior Elijah Burns and junior Manny Camper — all worthy candidates for the conference’s first team. Each is likely to end up on one of the MAAC’s all-league teams. Pickett — the MAAC’s preseason player of the year — finished the regular season averaging 15.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 6 assists per game, while Burns combined per-game averages of 14.6 points and 5.9 rebounds, and Camper averaged a double-double with 13.6 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.
A single program, though, hasn’t had three players make the MAAC’s first team since Siena did it in 2010, and that year was the first since 1994 in which a program had three players earn first-team spots. This season’s pool of potential first-team picks isn’t shallow either, making it unlikely Siena — even as the league’s regular-season champion — will buck the conference’s trend of capping teams at receiving no more than two first-team selections.
Burns and Pickett each finished in the conference’s top-10 for scoring, while Camper ranked No. 11. Burns and Camper each were top-10 rebounders, while Pickett led the league in assists per game and Burns finished No. 1 in the conference in overall shooting percentage.
Along with Iona senior E.J. Crawford — the league’s leading scorer at 18.8 points per game — Pickett is the lone first-team selection from a season ago eligible this year to repeat that honor.
Burns and Pickett have each been recognized this season at least one time as MAAC Player of the Week, while Camper has not. The junior, though, is perhaps the MAAC’s most improved player from a season ago. Camper has scored more points, grabbed more rebounds and dished more assists this season than he did combined during his first two seasons at Siena.
“Just so happy for where he’s come from and where he’s going to go,” Maciariello said. “He handles his business in all aspects and he’s a joy to coach.”
CONFIDENT AWAY FROM HOME
As the top seed in the MAAC tournament, the Saints won’t play until Wednesday at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, and Maciariello said the plan is for the Saints to travel Tuesday to New Jersey.
“We’re treating it like a normal road game,” Maciariello said.
Which, all the sudden, is the type of game Siena keeps winning. After starting the season 0-9 on the road, the Saints have won five of six games away from Albany and each of their last four.
Siena will play Wednesday against the winner of Tuesday’s matchup between No. 8 Fairfield and No. 9 Manhattan.