Siena (15-16) vs. Canisius (20-11)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 8, 2:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: MassMutual Center (7,552) -- Springfield, Massachusetts. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Siena 10-4, Canisius 9-3. Away Record: Siena 5-9, Canisius 9-7. Neutral Record: Siena 0-3, Canisius 2-1. Conference Record: Siena 11-9, Canisius 14-6. Series Record: Siena leads, 51-40.
GAME NOTES: Squaring off in the quarterfinals of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament, the fifth-seeded Siena Saints go up against the fourth- seeded Canisius Golden Griffins at the MassMutual Center in Springfield this afternoon.
Canisius, which has a record of 22-23 in this event all-time and has a championship stemming from a 52-46 win against Fairfield in the title game back in 1996, has not made it to the final round since 2001 versus Iona. The team lost back-to-back games during the regular season only twice, something it hopes to avoid here, as the Griffs were defeated by Manhattan in the regular-season finale last Sunday by a score of 68-63 at Draddy Gym.
It was not that long ago that Siena was the dominant program in the MAAC, capturing the tournament crown three straight years between 2008-10 and also playing in the championship game in 2007, which is why it is second in the league with five titles and 34 wins in the event over the years. Against Canisius in the tourney over the years, the Saints have a record of 5-2.
Siena owns a 51-40 advantage in the all-time series with the Griffs which stretches back to 1941.
The survivor of this meeting will be back in action on Sunday against the winner of the Rider/Iona contest for the right to play in the title game on Monday night.
If nothing else, Siena closed out the regular season strong with four consecutive wins, all after battling this same Canisius squad to three overtimes before losing, 92-88, back on Feb. 16 and don't think for a moment that the Saints have forgotten that hard-fought setback. As the top 3-point threat for the program, Rob Poole led the offense with 14.6 ppg and was also one of the better rebounders on the unit with 5.2 rpg, which is why he was named to the All-MAAC Third Team. However, not to be overlooked is Brett Bisping who put together several strong efforts down the stretch as he went from 10.4 ppg on the season overall to 12.3 ppg in conference play, not to mention boosting his work on the glass to 6.5 rpg. Marquis Wright, a mere 19.4 percent shooter beyond the arc, accounted for 8.9 ppg, but was far more valued for his passing as he finished first in the league with 171 dishes in his 31 appearances, becoming the first freshman to lead the MAAC in assists in two decades.
Speaking of passing the ball with positive results, Canisius guard Billy Baron was no stranger to such success as he placed second in the league with 161 assists for the Golden Griffins. However, keeping his teammates involved in the action was not the only intention of Baron, the son of head coach Jim Baron, as he finished the regular season ranked second in the league and third in the nation in scoring with 24.4 ppg, not to mention pulling down 5.0 rpg and making 48 steals. A 43.2 percent shooter beyond the arc who is 88.8 percent accurate at the free-throw line Baron, who was named All-MAAC First Team and the MAAC Player of the Year, is the program's single-season record holder for 3-point field goals (98), and is also just the third player in school history to have 150-plus assists in consecutive campaigns.
On the receiving end of some of those assists were Chris Perez and Jordan Heath who contributed 12.4 and 10.5 ppg, respectively, to a Canisius offense that was third in the league with 78.0 ppg and led the MAAC with 74.0 percent accuracy at the charity stripe.
With Baron doing everything he can from all points on the hardwood, it is hard to count out the Golden Griffins, even though their tournament history against Siena is not all that great.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Canisius 72, Siena 66
03/08 11:17:35 ET