Sunday, November 30, 2008

Game 7: UAlbany vs. Bryant

Overview: The Great Danes haven't won five games in a row since the end of the 2006-07 season and that's what they'll try to do Monday night against the team they beat to begin their current four-game winning streak. 

The Bulldogs are coming off of a 30-point loss to No. 2 Connecticut

As if playing your first season at the Division I level isn't hard enough coach Tim O'Shea and Bryant have 12 of 15 games on the road to begin the year. 

Add to that, a stretch of upcoming games against Boston College, Rutgers, Providence and Maryland and it's welcome to the game Bulldogs.

It's a big difference from playing Assumption, Le Moyne, Pace and Adelphi and also The College of Saint Rose last year in Division II. 

Bryant is led by junior forward Cecil Greshman (Bloomfield, Ct.), who is averaging more than 19 points per game and scored a game-high 19 against Connecticut. 

The Bulldogs also got 20 points and 11 rebounds in the first meeting against the Great Danes from sophomore guard Barry Latham. 

In that same game, UAlbany sophomore guard Tim Ambrose scored a game-high 24 points and is averaging 20 points per game over the Great Danes' four wins. 

Anthony Raffa and Louis Barraza also scored nine for UAlbany in the earlier victory.  

Records: UAlbany 4-2. Bryant 1-3 

The Series: This is the second all-time meeting, UAlbany won 76-67 on Nov. 19 of the season. 

Player to Watch: Tim Ambrose, sophomore UAlbany. Ambrose started this winning streak by matching a career day against this team and has started to become a consistent scoring threat for this Great Danes team. In the winning streak, he's scored 24 points twice and hit the game-winning shot against Central Connecticut. 

X-factor: Humble Pie. UAlbany has won four in a row, they've already beaten this team on the road, so it's over right. As ESPN College Football analyst Lee Corso would say....not so fast. If the Great Danes, who are still a young team and learning how to win, overlook Bryant, don't be too surprised if this is a lot closer than it should be. Remember, UAlbany played just yesterday, so we'll see how they bounce back in this one.  

Prediction: UAlbany 73, Bryant 60 (My UAlbany record is 5-1. I picked against the Great Danes on Saturday, not again)  

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

UAlbany wins fourth in a row

The Great Danes keep winning and it was an impressive victory at that in their 73-63 defeat of Penn.

UAlbany coach Will Brown compared the Quakers to conference foe Hartford, but said they were bigger up front.

“If you don’t communicate on both ends of the floor against a team like Penn, you’re going to get beat,” Brown said.

If the Great Danes continue to mature and come together, they could be a dangerous team come America East play.

UAlbany put four in double figures tonight and Tim Ambrose scored 19 points, while freshman Anthony Raffa scored a career-high 22.

“I kind of let the game come to me,” said Raffa, who also said the Coach Brown told him to shoot it if he was open.

While the Great Danes have won four in a row, they have beaten Bryant and Columbia, two teams not thought very highly of.

“My whole concern is I want to see growth, I want to see maturity,” Brown said.

UAlbany gets Bryant again on Monday and playing at home, have a very good chance to improve their winning streak to five.

“With Bryant, we know they’re going to play all zone offense, so we’ll fine-tune some zone offense tomorrow,” Brown said. “Defensively, it’s another opportunity to play and get better and play at home. I thought we had a good crowd today.”

Brown said Sunday's practice will be more mental, with only one day between games.

“These guys know in short turnarounds, I take care of them,” Brown said. “I told them in the locker room that I need you mentally tomorrow.”

While UAlbany is very talented, I didn't think we reach the Siena/UAlbany game on Dec. 6 with the Great Danes having a better record than the Saints.

“I think this group collectively can do some really special things,” Brown said.

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Game 5: Siena vs. Oklahoma State

Overview: Siena and Oklahoma State came into the Old Spice Classic a combined 6-0. Three days later, they are a combined 6-4 and both are looking to leave Florida with at least one victory.

The Cowboys are coached by first-year head man Travis Ford. Ford, a former player at Kentucky left UMass and Siena coach Fran McCaffery was a rumored name to possibly replace Ford in Amherst.

Ford's team can run and gun, evidenced by their four players averaging in double figures and average 84.7 points per contest.

Even though they haven't played up to their potential, Siena can still get a big win over a BCS team and take some momentum if they can put things together on Sunday.

By scoring 20 points, junior forward Edwin Ubiles surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career in Friday's game against Wichita State.

This game should feature plenty of offense.

Records: Siena 2-2. Oklahoma State 4-2

The Series: The Cowboys defeated the Saints in the only meeting between these two schools in 2001 at the Las Vegas Tournament.

Player to Watch: Kenny Hasbrouck, senior Siena. Hasbrouck hasn't had the best couple of games in Florida, but the MAAC's preseason Player of the Year doesn't stay down for long. Hasbrouck still has a chance to redeem himself against a Big 12 team. Hasbrouck scored 20 points on Friday, but I think he'd give all 20 of them back for the game-tying runner, which he missed, allowing Wichita State to sneak out with a 72-70 decision.

X-factor: Rebounding. Siena thought they had this problem going in the right direction, especially after outrebounding Tennessee, but then Wichita State got 13 offensive rebounds in what was a big key to Friday's game. The Saints will actually have a size advantage on Sunday and they need to make it count.

Injury Report: Siena senior Josh Duell (achilles, nose) took a blow to the head and it will be interesting to see if he plays at all on Sunday. Duell, who is recovering from an Achilles injury from the preseason, still hasn't scored yet this season in four games.

Prediction: Siena 78, Oklahoma State 75

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Game 6: UAlbany vs. Penn

Outlook: After an 0-2 state, the Great Danes have won three in a row for the first time since last November. UAlbany would like to get some momentum going, with a home game Monday against Bryant before the Dec. 6 matchup against Siena.

Senior Jerel Hastings stepped up on Tuesday at Columbia with 15 points.

The Quakers have already played at the nation's No. 1 team in North Carolina and only lost by 15.

Penn is a dominant team historically in the Ivy League. They have won seven league titles in the last decade.

UAlbany coach Will Brown began his collegiate career at Penn before his battle with Crohn's disease forced him to transfer to Division II Dowling College.

Actually, Siena coach Fran McCaffery also played his collegiate ball at Penn after transferring from Wake Forest.

In a side note, Capital District native Talor Battle scored 24 points against Penn on Tuesday in Penn State's 85-73 victory.

Records: UAlbany 3-2. Penn 1-3

All-Time Series: This is the first meeting between these two teams. Penn is 5-0 all-time against the America East Conference, while the Great Danes are 1-0 against the Ivy League this year, with the win over Columbia.

Player to Watch: Tyler Bernardini, sophomore Penn. Bernardini was the Rookie of the Year in the Ivy League last season and through the first four games is the team's leading scorer this year. Bernardini was also the Big 5 Rookie of the Year (that's the 5 Philly schools - La Salle, Penn, Saint Joseph's, Temple and Villanova), the first in school history.

Prediction: Penn 73, UAlbany 67 (Like Siena, I have come crashing down with my first loss after a 7-0 start)

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A Picture is worth 1,000 words


Siena senior guard Kenny Hasbrouck's expression says it all. After the co-captain missed a potential game-tying shot as the clock ran out in a 72-70 loss to Wichita State. 

The Saints 2-0 start and thoughts of being ranked in the Top 25 seem very far away. 

Siena coach Fran McCaffery said his team could play well and not win a game in the Old Spice Classic earlier this week. So far, his team has played poorly and lost twice.

Whoever they play on Sunday at 10:30 a.m., either Oklahoma State or No. 6 Michigan State, it will be a must-needed game to get back going in the right direction. 

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Game 4: Siena vs. Wichita State

Overview: Siena and Wichita State meet Friday morning at 10:30 a.m. on ESPNU in a consolation bracket game of the Old Spice Classic, which will be important for both clubs, coming off a loss.  

The Saints didn't play very well on Thursday and Tennessee exploited them. 

The good news was Siena didn't play nearly as well as their are capable and still only lost by 14 and had the lead in single digits in the second half. 

Also, senior co-captain Kenny Hasbrouck had a dismal outing and still the Saints were just a couple of big plays from making this a very close game.  

The bad news was the Volunteers pretty much had their way the entire game and didn't play their best either. 

Also, Siena shot poorly from beyond the arc at 1-for-15 and missed some easy shots.

I got to catch some of the Wichita State game around my Thanksgiving dinner and they looked pretty good. 

I thought they dictated the tempo and even though the slow pace is what Georgetown likes, the Shockers matched up well. 

It should be interesting to see how both teams bounce back, playing their first back-to-back games of the year and with an early tip time. 

If the Saints can make some shots early, I like their chances tomorrow.        

Also of note, junior Edwin Ubiles needs just 12 points to reach the 1,000-point mark for his career. Ubiles would be the fourth fastest in Siena's Division I history and eighth overall. Ubiles would reach that milestone in his 70th game, two shy of Hasbrouck and three shy of former teammate Michael Haddix ('07). 

Records: Siena 2-1. Wichita State 2-2

All-Time Series: This is the first meeting between these two schools. Siena is 8-6 all-time against schools from the Missouri Valley Conference.  

Player to Watch: Ryan Rossiter, sophomore Siena. Rossiter has posted back-to-back double-doubles and is starting to assert himself as a force and potentially one of the top big men once the conference schedule starts. Rossiter had 12 points and 14 rebounds against Tennessee and on Friday, will again be going up against a 7-footer in freshman Garrett Stutz. Rossiter played well last Saturday against Cornell's Jeff Foote.    

X-factor: Shooting. If you're reading that you might think of course, but the Shockers shot just 28 percent (17-61) against Georgetown and were right there. Siena shot 37 percent (24-65) and just 8 percent (1-15) from beyond the arc. Whoever can get quality shots and make them count will pull out the win.   

Injury Report: No new injuries as far as I know.  

Prediction: Siena 73, Wichita State 59  

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Game 3: Siena vs. #12 Tennessee

Overview: The Saints begin the Old Spice Classic with a very tough matchup in the Volunteers on ESPN2 at noon (an early Thanksgiving must-see, if you're not watching the Lions lose again).

Tennessee was ranked No. 1 in the country last year for a week and have three players who are capable of playing in the NBA, according to Siena coach Fran McCaffery, in Scotty Hopson, Wayne Chism and Tyler Smith.

The Volunteers also like to play the Saints' style of up-tempo type play and are averaging more than 93 points through their first three games.

Despite all of that, Siena's is confident of their chances.

"You have to have confidence in yourself that you're not going to be in awe of anybody and feel like you can win," McCaffery said. "We have that."

The Saints also feel like their experience in big games will help them in this tournament.

"It helps because we've been around it before," senior co-captain Kenny Hasbrouck said. "Nobody is going to have a shocked face now. I think we're used to it, so hopefully it's going to help us out in the game."

"I think we've gained a lot of respect over the past year," junior Alex Franklin added. "Teams aren't going to underestimate us anymore and I really think they're going to be ready for us, just as we will be ready for them."

Records: Siena 2-0. Tennessee 3-0

All-Time Series: These two teams have never met.

Player to Watch: Scotty Hopson, freshman Tennessee. Hopson was rated in the top 5 in the Class of 2008 by and was a McDonald's All-American selection as a high schooler from Kentucky. Hopson has started all three games and scored 17, 5 and 10 points. Oh, I forgot to mention that he's 6-foot-7. He's the real deal.

X-factor: Edwin Ubiles, junior Siena. Like many players in this tournament, Ubiles has NBA potential. His defense was great last game against Cornell's Ryan Wittman and he will have to step on both ends of the floor if the Saints are to have a chance at pulling an upset.

"The reality for him is he can really play defense," said McCaffery about Ubiles. "Selfishly for him, if he can show the NBA people that he can play offense and defense equally well, he'll be in the league. He's not going to get there purely on his ability to score."

Injury Report: Junior forward Cory Magee was not going to make the trip to Orlando, according to what McCaffery said on Monday. Magee (concussion) is still trying to work his way back after catching an elbow in practice before the season started.

Prediction: Tennessee 84, Siena 78 (Siena can pull an upset, but will they? I think they cover the 11-point spread)

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Patsos shuts down Curry, team loses by 30

Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos, who is quite the character I might add, held Davidson junior Stephen Curry scoreless on Tuesday night for the first time in his collegiate career.

Even though Patsos decided to hound Curry with two player the entire night, that didn't stop the Wildcats from winning 78-48.

Here's what Patsos had to say after the game.

"We had to play against an NBA player tonight," Patsos explained. "Anybody else ever hold him scoreless? I'm a history major. They're going to remember that we held him scoreless or we lost by 30?"

Curry came into the game as the nation's leading scorer, averaging 35.0 points per game.

"If Oklahoma can't stop him, how is Loyola College going to stop him?" Patsos asked, referring to the game where Curry scored 44 points.

Curry only attempted three shots during the game, two coming with less than 15 minutes to go, but didn't seem too frustrated.

"I don't think irritate is the word. Just confused," Curry said. "When they're down by that much and still allowing us to get open shots. It kind of surprised me."

Stephen Rossiter
, the brother of Siena sophomore forward Ryan Rossiter, had six points, six rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks in 31 minutes for Davidson.


In other local news, the University at Albany posted a 66-49 victory over Columbia on Tuesday night.

I had predicted 72-56.

UAlbany is now over .500, but with a tough Penn team coming in on Saturday.

Jerel Hastings
scored 15 points off of the bench, while Tim Ambrose added 13 and Brian Connelly finished with 11.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Game 5: UAlbany vs. Columbia

Overview: The Great Danes are aiming for an above .500 record for the first time this season.

Sophomore Tim Ambrose has scored 24 points in consecutive games for UAlbany and looks to asserting himself as the Great Danes' top scoring threat.

Columbia has beat Fordham (65-62) and Bryant (70-54), while losing to Seton Hall (71-50) and UMBC (66-52).

Records: UAlbany 2-2. Columbia 2-2

The Series: UAlbany leads series 2-1 (The Great Danes won last season 70-38)

Player to Watch: Patrick Foley, junior Columbia. Foley only played in nine game last season due to an injury, but he is the leading scorer for the Lions and one of the top guard in the Ivy League. Foley only scored two points against the Great Danes last year, but expect him to have so more say in the outcome this time around. Foley averaged 8.9 points per game as a freshman and scored the most total points by a first-year Columbia player since the 1995-96 season.

X-factor: Will Harris, junior UAlbany. Harris said before the season began that he was looking forward to playing back near his hometown. This is one of two games, St. Francis (Monday, Dec. 22) being the other where Harris will be returning to the New York City area. Harris is averaging 11.5 points per game so far this year and I would expect him to have a breakout game here.

Injury Note: As far as I know there aren't any new injuries. Freshman Anthony Raffa didn't start in UAlbany's last game, but he scored 11 points in 28 minutes off the bench, so I would assume he's feeling better after banging his head in the Bryant game.

Prediction: UAlbany 72, Columbia 56 (I'm an undefeated 4-0 with UAlbany so far)

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Franklin thankful to be back

Siena junior forward Alex Franklin missed five games last season with a bad back.

On Monday at the weekly Media Luncheon, he was asked if he was happy not to have to answer questions about his back anymore.

“I’m so happy my back is back at 100 percent. I really think it’s making dramatic improvements in my game," Franklin said.

Quietly Franklin is averaging 11.5 points, good for second best for the Saints, 3.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game, through Siena's 2-0 start.

“My explosiveness is always there,” Franklin said. “It doesn’t go in and out. It’s constantly there.”

As the Saints prepare for the Old Spice Tournament and newly ranked No. 12 Tennessee on Thanksgiving, Franklin will be asked to have another big performance.

Franklin said it was the focus through the team's first two games that has satisfied him the most.

“I think we’re all playing well,” Franklin said. “I think we’re playing well as a team. We’re really sharing the ball well and our focus is really good right now. That’s what I like the most about how we’re playing.”

Franklin said he'd never been to Disney World, so he's extra excited to escape the Northeast for the week.

“It’s always exciting to play on national television, especially on Thanksgiving,” Franklin said. “It’s going to be a fun experience — we’re down in Orlando, what’s there not to be excited about?”

Franklin will be away from most of his family on Thanksgiving because his cousin is getting married, but he talked about how he would normally spend the holiday if he wasn't contending with the Volunteers (the ones from Tennessee).

“I do a lot of the cooking at my household,” Franklin said. “We always go to my grandfather’s house at the end and have one big dinner there.”


The Saints picked up 10 votes in the ESPN/USA Today poll - that's up from two in last week's poll.

Also, senior co-captain Kenny Hasbrouck was named Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Week for the second week of the season.

Hasbrouck averaged 21 points and shot 56 percent from the field, while leading the Saints in scoring in both victories during the week.

Hasbrouck also averaged 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.5 steals during the week.

This is the first time Hasbrouck, who was voted the MAAC's preseason Player of the Year, has received the award - in his career.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

UAlbany survives

Thanks to my colleague Will Montgomery for covering the UAlbany game tonight.

He returned saying it was a good one that the Great Danes had the handle on the game, but then had to win down the stretch, which to me sounded like the Bryant game.

Here's what he had to say about tonight's game...

The fans at SEFCU Arena saw a great basketball game on Saturday night, but the Great Danes should have put it away early on in the second half.

Albany jumped out to a 49-31 lead with 15:39 to go in the second half, but Central Connecticut came crawling right back. The Blue Devils, who were 0-of-9 from three-point range in the first 30 minutes of the game, but hit three in a row and that tied the score at 57.

But UAlbany's Tim Ambrose went from goat to hero very quickly after he missed what would have been the go-ahead layup with nine seconds left.

The Blue Devils received the ball thanks to the possession arrow on a scrum following the Ambrose miss, but Central Connecticut’s Robby Ptacek inexplicably stepped out of bounds upon receiving the ball, giving Ambrose another shot.

With three seconds remaining, Ambrose slashed his way to the rim and sunk the retribution shot. The fans in SEFCU Arena erupted as the Great Danes claimed a 68-67 non-league victory in Albany’s 2008-09 home opener.

"I just wanted to get inbounds, get aggressive and get to the basket," Ambrose said.

Ambrose’s heroics aside, the Albany pressure that forced the Blue Devils turnover which was the game’s crucial play.

The Great Danes still sent the raucous crowd of 3,241 away feeling happy, even if it was a little too close for UAlbany coach Will Brown’s liking.

"We wanted to make sure the fans in the seats came back for the next one," he said. "We made it interesting."

From the looks of it, it sure is going to be an interesting season for the Danes, as they try to slim the rotation down to seven or eight players. Albany had eight players play at least 12 minutes, and three other players hit the floor for at least seven, a stat Will Brown mentioned in the press conference after the game.

The two biggest signs for Albany fans from Saturday's game: Ambrose sure looks like he's going to be the guy taking the big shots for UAlbany this year and Will Harris is going to be an explosive player when he's fully healthy.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Downey stepping up

Siena freshman Kyle Downey has done everything so far to please his teammates and coaches.

On Saturday, he was key in starting Siena's 15-1 run that put the game out of reach.

Downey knocked down a Kenny Hasbrouck-like floater then called for and knocked down a big 3-pointer to increase the lead to 12.

"Kyle's in the gym two times more than I am," Hasbrouck said. "He's in the gym day and night and we expect him to play like that."

The freshman finished with seven points and two assists in 19 minutes.

"I would have been surprised if he didn't do that, the way he's played," Siena coach Fran McCaffery said.

To his credit, Downey has down-played everything so far this season, the media attention, the shots made, just about everything.

"We were in the flow and I just had hit the shot before and I was open and he got it to me," said Downey of his big 3-pointers.

Downey said it was "cool" hitting a big three in front of the home crowd.

"They were getting a little louder because we hit a few baskets," Downey said. "It was cool."


Give Cornell coach Steve Donohue credit.

Asked about playing without preseason Player of the Year Louis Dale, this is what Donohue had to say.

"I hate when I watch other coaches, to be honest with you, talk about injuries," Donohue said. "Everybody has injuries, everybody has injuries. Siena beat us. They are a much better basketball team than us."

Donohue also gave a shot to MAAC rival Loyola, albeit a small and unintended one, when talking about the easy shots that his team missed.

"We did it the last game and got away with it, against Loyola, not nearly the basketball team Siena is," Donohue said. "It cost us tonight."

Sophomore Ryan Rossiter posted his first career double-double by scoring 10 points and 15 rebounds.

He looked impressive going up against 7-foot center Jeff Foote.

"You look at what he's doing and he's an all-league player the way he's playing right now," McCaffery said. "I thought that this summer, but you don't want to get too excited with what a guy does in Italy."

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Game 4: UAlbany vs. CCSU

Overview: UAlbany brings a 6-3 Division I home opener record into tonight's game against Central Connecticut State.

The Blue Devils have lost to Boston College (80-65) and to Colgate (58-57) on a buzzer-beater.

Central Connecticut has won three Northeast Conference titles over the past ten years, the most recent coming in 2007. The Blue Devils have won the most games in conference play over the last decade (124), 18 ahead of Monmouth.

Central Connecticut has won 17 games in a row, when scoring 80 points or more, dating back to the 2005-06 season.

We have a sister paper in New Britain, the New Britain Herald, and I was doing a little reading on Central. They keep saying them team is tough, but not good at the foul line.

Records: UAlbany 1-2. Central Connecticut State 0-2

The Series: The Blue Devils leads the series 19-7. The Great Danes snapped a 10-game losing streak with last season's 63-60 overtime win.

Player to Watch: Ken Horton, sophomore Central Connecticut. The 6-foot-6 forward is averaging 19.5 points per game through two contests and is only the third Blue Devils player to score more than 18 points per game in his first two games of the season since the 1992-93 season. Horton scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his fourth career double-double in Monday's loss to Colgate.

X-Factor: Brian Connelly, senior UAlbany. I keep waiting for this one of only three seniors to step it up. Connelly is averaging only 4.7 points per game, after averaging 10.1 points per game last year. He will have a tough matchup with either Horton or senior Marcus Palmer, but if he has a big game UAlbany will win.

Injury Note: On the UAlbany side, freshman Anthony Raffa (concussion) and junior Will Harris (knee) are both questionable for tonight's game.

Central Connecticut sophomore Shemik Thompson (groin), who is averaging 12.0 points per game, also might miss the game.

Prediction: UAlbany 76, Central Connecticut 66

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Game 2: Siena vs. Cornell

Overview: Cornell and Siena both went to the NCAA Tournament last season and they are both pretty heavily favored to do so again in 2008-09.

The Big Red posted an 83-77 victory last season, while putting five players in double figures.

Louis Dale led the way with 20 points and both Ryan Wittman and Collin Robinson scored 14.

Alex Franklin led the way for Siena with 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Edwin Ubiles added 17 and Kenny Hasbrouck scored 16.

The Big Red has beat South Dakota (79-69) and Loyola (Md.) (82-72) and loss to St. John's (86-75).

Records: Siena 1-0. Cornell 2-1

The Series: Series is tied 1-1. Cornell won last season 83-77. Siena won in 1985, 70-55 in the Siena Invitational Tournament.

Player to Watch: Ryan Wittman, junior Cornell. Wittman, who is the son of former NBA player and current Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Randy Wittman, is averaging 24.7 points through three games. ESPN's Fran Fraschilla placed Wittman as No. 10 on his list of Top 10 shooters in the country along with Davidson's Stephen Curry, Notre Dame's Kyle McAlarney, Miami's Jack McClinton (former Siena player) and Rhode Island's Jimmy Barron amongst others.

X-Factor: Jeff Foote, senior Cornell. Foote has never played against the Saints because he transferred from St. Bonaventure. Currently, he is averaging 15.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.3 blocks per game. If Foote can stay with Siena's fast-paced tempo than he could make a difference. If the Saints can run him off of the floor, it will be to their advantage.

Injury Note: Siena senior Josh Duell has practiced all but one day this week and plans on playing. He's been swimming to get his endurance back and also is wearing a heel lift to keep the Achilles straight.

"Hopefully I don’t foul like I did last game, so I can stay in longer," Duell joked about playing only three minutes against Boise State and picking up three fouls.

For Cornell, Louis Dale (hamstring) is doubtful, while fellow All-Ivy guard Adam Gore (knee) is out until January.

Prediction: Siena 81, Cornell 68 (I don't think the Big Red will come out on top this time around)

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Robertson named Liberty League OPOY

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute senior quarterback Jimmy Robertson was named Liberty League Offensive Player of the Year earlier this week.

The senior has won 29 games as a starter in four seasons with the Engineers, who play in an ECAC matchup against Alfred on Saturday at '86 Field at noon.

He also became the first player ever to throw for over 9,000 yards and holds the record for career completions.

(RPI Athletics)

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Game 3: UAlbany vs. Bryant

Overview: This will be Bryant's first game ever in Division I. Coming from Division II and the Northeast-10 Conference, which is where The College of Saint Rose plays. 

Not to be confusing, but the Bulldogs have accepted a position to become a member of the Northeast Conference and will become a full-time member in the 2012-13 season. 

Bryant is coached by former Ohio University coach Tim O'Shea. O'Shea brought the Bobcats to the NCAA Tournament in 2005 and had a record of 120-85. 

The Great Danes are still in search of a victory, but know they can not overlook this team. 

"We're 0-2 right now," junior guard Mike Johnson said just before UAlbany was about to depart for Rhode Island. "We definitely have to play just to get a win."   

The Great Danes need to limit the turnovers, after committing 20 in each of their first two games.

"If we could have cleaned up some of our decisions on opening night, I thought (the Villanova game) should have been a single-digit game," UAlbany coach Will Brown said. "Last night, I thought if we would have done a better job valuing the basketball, we could have been in a position to win that game, shoot we were down six with 1:50 to go. We had plenty of opportunities against both Big East teams." 

These two teams will meet at SEFCU Arena on Monday, Dec. 1. Brown said he likes the idea of playing a home-and-home with a non-conference team because it has the feel of a conference matchup in terms of making adjustments. 

Brown said he will look to schedule another one next year. 

Records: UAlbany 0-2. Bryant 0-0 

The Series: This is the first meeting between these two schools.  

Player to Watch: Mike Johnson, UAlbany junior guard. Johnson almost tallied a triple-double against DePaul. Johnson totaled 16 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. It will be interesting to see how he fares. 

"My comfort level was definitely better the second game," Johnson said. "I just with played with energy and made shots." 

UAlbany has never had a player record a triple-double since moving to the Division I level. 

X-Factor: Experience. While Bryant doesn't have any Division I experience, their players have experience with four upperclassmen in the starting five. Juniors Chris Birrell and Cecil Gresham both averaged more than 10 points per game last season.    

Injury Note: UAlbany freshman Logan Aaronhalt won' t play tomorrow, but he's getting back into practice. 

"I want to get him to the point where he knows what we're doing and I can put him in there for two or three minutes at a time because he's as good of a shooter as we have and we're going to need him," Brown said

Brown also said that he doesn't see Allen playing against Central Connecticut on Saturday, but he might see action against Columbia (Nov. 25) or the following Saturday against Penn (Nov. 29).  

Prediction: UAlbany 72, Bryant 57 (The Great Danes got their first ever Division I victory against Elon College on Nov. 26, 1999 - Bryant won't get it here)

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New Recruiting Class and other "business"

While Siena coach Fran McCaffery said it was great for the crowd and Tay Fisher to be back to unveil last year's championship, he's foucsed on the new season.

"Last night, it was time for business," McCaffery said.

The Saints took care of business in Game 1 and now are looking ahead to Saturday's date with Cornell.

First, Siena annouced Tuesday that O.D. Anosike, Jonathan Breeden and Denzel Yard all have signed National Letters of Intent to play for the Saints in 2009-10. Siena has one more scholarship to give.

Here's what McCaffery said about the new class.

"I'm really excited about these three," said McCaffrey at Tuesday's media luncheon. "I feel like we've addressed some of our needs."

Anosike is a 6-foot-8 205-pound forward from New Jersey, who averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds a year playing for Saint Peter's High School for Boys' in Staten Island.

"He's 6-8 and long, very versitale and can handle the ball extremely well for a 6-8 player," said McCaffery, who added the staff saw O.D. play probably 30 times this summer. "He can really play the three (small forward) if we need him to."

Breeden is a 6-foot-1 point guard from Harrisburg, Pa.

"Breeden's a pure point, get in the lane, great pick-and-roll player, solid body and very athletic," McCaffery said.

Breeden didn't play this summer due to an ankle injury, but McCaffery said he's had lengthy discussions with his high school coach at Central Dauphin East, who McCaffery knows well and so he knows what he's getting.

Yard is another guard from Philadelphia, Pa., who played for Team Philly AAU.

"Denzel Yard can play point, he can play two (shooting guard)," said McCaffery, who added that he's seen Denzel play 15 times already. "He's a phenomenal athlete, really competitive and great basketball instincts."

Overall, McCaffery is happy with how these players will fit with his team.

"For a team that likes to go up and down and press the way we do, we have three guys that can play exactly that way," McCaffery said.

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Fisher is Back

ALBANY - Tay Fisher didn't even need to be back on the floor to inspire his former Siena teammates. 

"We all love Tay to death," senior captain Kenny Hasbrouck said following his 20-point performance on Monday night in the Saints 30-point victory. "It gave us energy when we saw him."

In fact, Fisher, who was back on Monday night to help unveil the 2007-08 championship banner, sent text messages to a couple of his teammates earlier in the day. 

"It felt like last year when he would give us those pre-game speeches," junior forward Alex Franklin said. 

I got to catch up with Fisher during halftime and he said he was impressed with this year's club. 

"This is the year," Fisher said. "You can just tell by how that first half went."

He went on about what he like while apparently he was waving a Siena finger in the crowd. 

"Everything looks good about them right now," Fisher said. "I'm really excited to be watching them. They really worked hard and you can tell by they way they look. They look quicker, look more confident. I'm real happy that the freshmen are looking good and Clarence is out there looking good."

Fisher said he was unsure of how to act, since he was in the crowd and not on the court or on the bench. 

"Should I go crazy like I would be on the bench or just stay chill, act like a normal person" Fisher said. "This is only my first game, so hopefully next time I come I'll know how to act."

Fisher was happy to be invited back, especially after the crowd serenaded him with "Tay Fisher, Tay Fisher." 

"It still shows that Siena is there for you no matter what," Fisher said. "It really doesn't matter how long it is."

Fisher still would like to play professionally, but he's still hearing he's not tall enough. 

"It's 2008, that height stuff (should be) over with," Fisher said. "If you can play, you can play."

Fisher might begin graduate school coming up in January and he's had some interviews in Troy and Albany for student teaching and teacher's assistant positions.

He also said he will continue with his basketball camps and just finished his website 

Fisher did get into the locker room after the game, I'm sure to provide some words of encouragement. 

They had some words for him too. 

"We told he needs to suit up," Franklin said. "Put that No. 4 jersey on, we've got the headband and shoot some three's for us."

In today's paper I mentioned how Hasbrouck's miss of a lay-up, six seconds in to the game was about the only thing Siena did wrong on Monday night. 

He tried to explain what happened on that play. 

I'm going to tell you honestly what happened," Hasbrouck said. "I'm open and I was going to try and dunk it. I wasn't warmed up yet and I'm not that athletic, so I'm going to try and lay it up and I messed up. Whatever I got another lay-up right after."

I also have to say I was shocked with how dominant Siena was on Monday night. They dominated for the opening tip until the final buzzer.   

Another side note is that Boise State coach Greg Graham revealed that he was one of the coaches who voted for the Saints in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll. 

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Some Siena postgame quotes

I've got to go watch my Bills win (hopefully), so I'll have more on the game tomorrow, but here are some quotes from after the game.

"Before the game started, I just tried to reiterate everything we went over and tried to stay focused," senior guard Kenny Hasbrouck said.

Hasbrouck said he worked out all summer and had a personal trainer when he went back home to Maryland.

"I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in my life," Hasbrouck said.

"We knew we were going to come at them and press them a lot, we wanted to take the ball out of their point guards hands," sophomore forward Ryan Rossiter said.

"Alex did a great job guarding their guards, Ron and Kenny turning them over and that set the tone for the game," Rossiter said.

"There’s always room to get better," junior Alex Franklin said. "We love the way we focused and came out, but there’s always room to get better."

"I didn’t think it would be a 30-point win, I did not," coach Fran McCaffery said.

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Game 2: UAlbany vs. DePaul

Overview: It was quite the weather situation today on my way into work, bright skies, then snow and wind.

The Windy City is where the Great Danes are tonight for their contest with the second consecutive Big East opponent when the face DePaul at 8:30 p.m..

This is a return home for senior center Jimmie Covington, who is from Chicago and went to Morgan Park High School.

UAlbany played pretty well on Friday, considering they were playing a Top 25 team, on the road and two newcomers, junior Will Harris and freshman Anthony Raffa, led the team in scoring with 13 points apiece.

Raffa's 13 points are the highest by a UAlbany freshman in their first collegiate game since Jon Iati ('08) scored 15 against Siena in 2003.

The bad news is they will have to play just as good tonight to have a chance. Even though DePaul is picked to finished 15th in the Big East (amazing that the conference has 16 teams and still hasn't spilt into divisions), they will be a tough team.

The Blue Demons have two players from the Big East's All-Rookie squad from a year ago, Mac Koshwal and Dar Tucker. Koshwal (see below) and Tucker, who averaged 13.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game will probably be two of the most talented players on the floor tonight.

This will be the first game at on-campus McGrath Arena (capacity 3,000) since Nov. 20, 1999.

Records: UAlbany 0-1. DePaul 0-0

The Series: This is the first meeting between these two schools.

Player to Watch: Mac Koshwal, sophomore center. At 6-foot-10 Koshwal was selected to be a captain last season as a freshman (I've never heard of that) and averaged 10.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. He will be a hand full for Covington (6-foot-7) and junior Brett Gifford (6-11)

Injury Note: No injuries that I know of, besides red-shirt freshman Billy Allen will wear the mask he wore against Villanova. Allen played four minutes off of the bench on Friday and scored three points.

Prediction: Bills 27, Browns 17 - whoops sorry wrong sport.....DePaul 72, UAlbany 63 (DePaul is 5-0 all-time on Nov. 17 and UAlbany is 4-21 all-time against the Big East)

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Game 1: Siena vs. Boise State

Overview: Siena begins the season of high expectations against a team that reached the NCAA Tournament last year in Boise State.

The Broncos won the Western Athletic Conference and were a 14-seed, losing to Louisville 79-61.

While Siena defeated Boise State on the road by 23 points and they have mostly all of their players back, while the Broncos only have one starter returning, I don't think this game will be a runaway.

6-foot-7 senior Mark Sanchez and 6-9 Kurt Cunningham give Boise an inside presence, while junior Anthony Thomas had 11 assists in the Broncos first game against Division III Pacific on Friday evening. Thomas had 141 assists last season and needs just 55 this year to crack into the Top 10 in school history.

La'Shard Anderson is a junior college transfer, who will also make an impact for Boise this season.

The Saints will be unveiling their 2007-08 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship banner at halftime, with a return from Tay Fisher.

Junior point guard Ronald Moore needs just six assists to surpass Prosper Karangwa ('03) on the all-time career assist list. He has 338 career assists entering the 2008-09 season.

Records: Boise State 1-0. Siena 0-0

The Series: Siena and Boise State have each one won game against each other. The Saints won last season in a ESPN BracketBusters matchup 93-70.

The Broncos won 82-80 in the 1993 Boise State Real Dairy Classic.

Siena is 2-1 all-time against the nine current member of the WAC, with a win against Hawaii, 65-43 (1949-50).

Player to Watch: Alex Franklin, junior forward Siena. Franklin tortured the Broncos last year in the BracketBusters game to the tune of 30 points and 18 rebounds, both career-highs. If they can't slow down Franklin, it will be a long night for Boise.

X-Factor: Rebounding. The Saints outrebounded the Broncos 44-36 and outscored them in the paint 46-28. Siena was outrebounded by an averaged of 4.3 boards per game last season and to out-board Boise State by eight, shows what kind of dominance they had inside. The development of Rossiter, if he can play and play effectively, should only help that stat. If Siena outrebounds Boise against, the Saints will likely win easily. The key for the Broncos will be controlling the play inside.

Quote: "They kind of came into our place and put a little hurt on us," said Boise State sophomore Paul Noonan in Monday morning's Idaho Statesman about the BracketBusters game from last season.

Noonan made the first start of his career in that game in place of an injured Matt Bauscher.

Injury Note: For Siena, an update on the three-headed monster of Cory Magee, Josh Duell and Ryan Rossiter. Magee (concussion) is out for tonight's game. Duell (foot) may play a little bit after practicing this weekend and Rossiter (knee) could be in the starting lineup and should play.

Prediction: Siena 86, Boise State 71 (The Saints are 34-32 all-time in season openers)

Check back tomorrow for more on UAlbany's matchup against DePaul.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fisher will unveil championship banner

The Siena men's basketball team will unveil its 2007-08 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference banner at halftime of its season opener against Boise State.

The lone senior from last year's club, Tay Fisher will be on hand to assist with the ceremony.

The Saints won 23 games and went on to defeat Vanderbilt in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament, thanks in part to six 3-pointers from Fisher.

Fisher, who finished second on Siena's 3-point career list with 299 treys, celebrated his 22nd birthday with the MACC Tournament victory over Rider in Albany.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

UAlbany Football: NEC Champs

(UAlbany Athletics)

RPI football loses

From the score alone, I can only assume that the RPI football team didn't play their best game in a 23-21 loss to Merchant Marine.

With Hobart's victory, 10-7 Rochester, the Statesmen get the Liberty League title and automatic bid in the NCAA's.

Hobart would have won the league even with a loss because of the Engineers loss.

While on the topic of Division III football, I have to give a shoutout to my alma mater, Ithaca, who trounced previously unbeaten #7 Cortland 35-13 to retain the Cortaca Jug.

RPI might get an ECAC game, but boy would they have been kicking themselves if Hobart had lost.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Game 1: UAlbany vs. Villanova

Overview: UAlbany has eight new faces, Villanova has their entire starting five back.

The last college basketball game I saw in person had the Wildcats in it, when they defeated Siena in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament and boy, was I impressed. The Saints had a ton of momentum and that meant nothing to a team that was on a roll from the Big East.

The Great Danes get lucky in this sense. If there was any time where the Wildcats wouldn't be totally in sync, this is it, in their first game of the season.

The problem for UAlbany is, no matter how well they play they won't be totally in sync either because they haven't been playing together long enough.

Senior Dante Cunningham is a matchup nightmare for opponents at 6-foot-8, sophomore Corey Fisher provides a huge spark off of the bench and sophomore Corey Stokes scored 20 last season against Siena.

UAlbany has plenty of firepower this season, but the question is who will score the basketball tonight, in front of a packed house, on the road, against a Top 25 team.

Senior Brian Connelly averaged more than 10 points per game last season, but someone else will have to step up in order for the Great Danes even to stay close.

Records: Villanova 0-0. UAlbany 0-0

The Series: These two teams are meeting for the second time. Villanova posted an 86-72 victory on Dec. 22, 2004.

Allan Ray scored a game-high 26 points for the Wildcats, while Curtis Sumpter and Randy Foye each added 23.

Jamar Wilson led the Great Danes with 19, while Lucious Jordan added 16 and Brent Wilson knocked down five 3-pointers.

UAlbany only trailed by five with 4:34 to go in the game.

Player to Watch: Scottie Reynolds, junior guard. Reynolds led the Wildcats with 15.9 points per game last season and is a preseason All-Big East selection. This is the guy who ended Siena's season last year with a 20-point, eight-rebound, five-assist performance. Reynolds has already scored over 1,000 points in his Villanova career and was only the second Big East Rookie of the Year in school history (Tim Thomas). With two freshmen at the point for UAlbany, Reynolds may be poised for a big night.

X-Factor: Will Harris, junior UAlbany. To say I know what Harris will bring to the table tonight is just not true. Not even UAlbany coach Will Brown can be sure what Harris, who two months ago was not even eligible to play, will have in him. The positive is that Harris has played a season and a half in the ACC, so he won't be overwhelmed by the atmosphere or the opponent. If the Great Danes are lucky, maybe he will even lead by example and give UAlbany fans an early glimpse of what he will bring to the table this season.

Injury Note: UAlbany red-shirt freshman Billy Allen will wear a mask tonight after breaking his nose in practice. Allen will be making his UAlbany debut after missing last season after undergoing back surgery.

Villanova senior Shane Clark is out at least until December after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on his right knee. Clark averaged 7.1 points per game last season and had 25 points in the 2007-08 season opener against Stony Brook.

Prediction: Villanova 83, UAlbany 62

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

UAlbany officially inks three

The University at Albany made official three basketball student-athletes signing their National Letters of Intent today, during the early signing period.

It seems as if UAlbany coach Will Brown wants to go big, especially since he will be losing Brian Connelly, Jimmie Covington and Jerel Hastings.

Gavin Glanton, a 6-foot-7 forward from Forrest City, Arkansas, Blake Metcalf, a 6-9 center from Camby, Indiana and Ralph Watts, a 6-5 guard/forward from New York powerhouse Peekskill High School will suit up for the Great Danes in 2009-10.

Here's what Coach Brown had to say about each of the three players.

"Gavin brings a rare combination of athleticism and skill to the floor," Brown explained. "He is explosive, attacks the rim, and has a strong mid-range game. He is very talented and has a bright future."

"Blake is a physical player with a very good skill set," Brown offered. "He can score on the block and shoot the 15-foot to 17-foot jumper. He knows that he is a true center and really likes playing with his back to the basket."

"Ralph is an extremely versatile perimeter player who can impact a game in a variety of ways," Brown said. "He can play all three perimeter positions and is an excellent defender and a very good passer."

Siena players lend some advice to UAlbany

I can't believe it's only one day before the beginning of the college basketball season (I don't consider Duke beating Presbyterian the start of the year and I know UCLA goes for 2-0 tonight on ESPNU).

Man, that snuck up on us.

Anyway, since the University at Albany kicks off their season against Villanova, the team that ended Siena's season last year, I decided to ask some of the Saints at Wednesday's practice if they could give the Great Danes one tip of advice for facing the Wildcats.

Here's what they had to say.

"Bring it," junior guard/forward Edwin Ubiles said. "They are one of the top schools. They're bigger guys, stronger guys, quicker, faster and athletic, so they just have to bring it, be ready and focused."

"Really take these guys seriously because they are one of the top programs in the country and they're going to come with everything they've got," junior forward Alex Franklin said. "If you don't come hard, they're really going to try and walk all over you."

"Definitely contain Scottie Reynolds," junior guard Ronald Moore said. "Everything goes through him and keep their big guys off the glass because they do attack the glass hard. Definitely control Scottie Reynolds. If you stop him, you have a great chance of winning."

"You have to match their intensity," senior co-captain Josh Duell said. "Villanova plays that style where they get up in you right away. They box you out, they hit you, foul you seven times in one possession and it doesn't get called. They have to be ready and keep the intensity up."

An aside for Siena fans, Duell says his foot is getting better. He didn't practice Wednesday and I'd be surprised to see him suit up on Monday night, but here's what he had to say.

"I'm starting to be able to get back into practice a little bit. No contact stuff, but just starting running and trying to get in shape," Duell said.

As for a return to the floor, Duell wasn't sure when he'd be back practicing.

"I hope as soon as possible," Duell said. "It's all up to what the trainers said. I'm at the mercy of them, but if I had my choice, I'd be back as soon as possible."

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Siena ranked No. 29 by SI

The Siena men's basketball team was picked 29th by Sports Illustrated in their preseason men's basketball poll.

It is the highest Sports Illustrated has ranked the Saints since the preseason poll in 1999-2000 listed Siena 26th.

Sports Illustrated picked the Top 20 and then gave 21 through 65 as they filled out their brackets, by picking the winners of each conference.

This is what they said about Siena...

Up-tempo Saints, paced by guard Kenny Hasbrouck, the league tournament MVP, prep for return to NCAAs with tune-ups against Tennessee, Pitt and Kansas.

Here is the two teams ahead and behind Siena.

27. Florida - Sophomore Nick Calathes, one of two players in the nation to average more than 15 points, five boards and six assists, headlines roster of 11 underclassmen.

28. UNLV - Star guard Wink Adams will be joined by Memphis transfer Tre'Von Willis, who averaged 15.2 points and led Runnin' Rebs in assists on summer tour Down Under.

29. Siena

30. Syracuse - Guards Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins return from injury to help relieve sophomore Jonny Flynn, who averaged 39.2 minutes in league play.

31. Temple - Oh Come Owl Ye Faithful: Dionte Christmas, two-time A-10 scoring champ, will help deliver second straight tournament bid to coach Fran Dunphy.

For the record, Sports Illustrated has North Carolina has the No. 1 team.

You can see the rest of the article here...

In Joe Lunardi's Bracketology, Siena is a 12-seed in the West Region, playing 4-seed Georgetown.

We could see that matchup much earlier.

If the Saints and Hoyas both win in the first games at the Old Spice Clasic on Thanksgiving, they will meet in the second round.

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UAlbany gears up for Villanova

ALBANY - UAlbany senior Brian Connelly grew up watching Villanova basketball.

Growing up in southern New Jersey, it only makes sense.

On Friday, Connelly expects 50 or so of his friends and family to trade in their Wildcats white and blue for purple and gold.

“Villanova has always been one of my favorite teams," Connelly said. "I have a lot of friends that go to the school. I’ve visited the school a few times.”

Connelly said he had to get some of his friends tickets and so he's "making" them support UAlbany.

Freshman point guard Anthony Raffa is also a native of the Philadelphia area, coming from Wildwood, N.J., which is about 45 minutes away.

“Hopefully a lot of family will be there,” Raffa said. “I can’t worry about that though. I have to worry about winning the game, our team trying to win the game.”

Raffa is excited for the challenge of going up against a Big East team that is ranked in the Top 25 in his first collegiate game.

"It's great," Raffa said. "It gets us ready for the conference tournament (which is) up here and it's going to be exciting."

Fellow point guard Mike Johnson is also excited for the challenge of going up against Villanova point guard Scottie Reynolds.

“I never thought it would be, but I’m embracing it,” Johnson said. “I’m up for it and I can’t wait. I tell Coach (Brown) that every day that I’m so excited and I just hope he’ll be able to schedule games like this more often.”

Johnson, who transferred in from Blinn College in Texas is listed as one of five starters by Brown for tomorrow's game. The others are Connelly, senior Jimmie Covington, junior Brett Gifford and red-shirt freshman Billy Allen.

Don't be surprised though if Brown changes things routinely Friday night because eight of his players will be putting the UAlbany jersey on for the first time.

“I feel like for one day, my first game, I can feel like I’m a Big East point guard,” Johnson said.

The last time UAlbany played a Big East team, they were defeated by Connecticut 86-55 on Nov. 26, 2006, in what was a rematch of the NCAA Tournament first round game from March '06.

“Villanova, that says it all,” sophomore guard Tim Ambrose said. “It’s the Big East, a Top 20 team, so we just have to prepare ourselves every day in practice until Friday and then go out there, try to execute our defense and our offense and hope we come out on top.”

In fact, the Great Danes first two games are against Big East squads as they will take on DePaul on Monday, Nov. 17.

“We have a lot of talent and we have some skill, but the teams we are going up against our first two games, definitely have that to, so this will show how much heart we have and how much desire we really have to win,” Johnson said.

Connelly says he's seen the team make "incredible" improvement from their first scrimmage against Long Island to their second, which was at Bucknell.

“In my opinion, we’ve made leaps and bounds since the beginning of practice,” Connelly said.

We'll find out how good UAlbany and a little bit more about their makeup on Friday night.

Make sure to check back for my prediction on the game.


And finally, as UAlbany's resident Philadelphia Phillies fan, Raffa reacted the Phillies winning the World Series.

“They finally did it,” Raffa said. “Now, everyone is trying to hate on the Eagles because they lost to the Giants. I just have to rub it in their faces because everyone (here is) a Mets fan and Yankees fan.”

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

This Year's Davidson: Siena??

Sports Illustrated just released their Top 20 men's college basketball teams on Monday for the upcoming season and while Siena was left off of the list and probably for good reason, the writers also published a breakdown of the Top 20.

There were a few questions, including

Who will be this year's Davidson?

If you remember Davidson rode junior guard Stephen Curry to a 29-7 record and a spot in the Elite Eight, where they lost to Kansas (eventual national champion) 59-57.

Here's what Sports Illustrated's writers had to say....

Seth Davis: Besides Davidson, you mean? I'm going with Siena. They return all five starters from the group that routed Vanderbilt in the first round last year. The Saints won't overwhelm anyone with their size (few mid-majors will), but they certainly will not face the athletic deficit that many mid-majors face when they go against the big boys.

Luke Winn: Davidson wasn't in my top 20 - I was a big Jason Richards fan, and still have my doubts about this whole Curry-at-the-point thing working out - so I'm going to pass on the Wildcats in favor of Siena. Ronald Moore, Kenny Hasbrouck and Edwin Ubiles make up as good of a backcourt as you're going to find at any mid-major, and they're all upperclassmen, too. The Saints aren't a mid-major powerhouse on the level with the better teams in the West Coast Conference - they did lose to Memphis by 44 on the road last season, after all - but they've already gained valuable NCAA tournament experience by beating Vanderbilt in the first round. It wouldn't be a huge shock to see Siena make the Sweet 16 as a 12-seed this time around.

Grant Wahl: The easy answer is either "nobody" (since last year's Davidson run wasn't the kind of thing you see every year) or "Davidson" (since that Curry kid is still around). But I'll play along here and spotlight Saint Mary's -- which could use one in that jazz-club-dark gym it plays in. Like Davidson, its star player even has a female-sounding handle! But to call Patty Mills a poor man's Steph Curry would be damning the Aussie with faint praise, considering he put up 20 against Team USA in the Olympics. And the Gaels have more talent down low than Davidson did last season. Forward Diamon Simpson is a menace at both ends of the floor, and I like to call wide-bodied center Omar Samhan the Moraga Mikan. With three heavyweights in Saint Mary's, Gonzaga and San Diego, the West Coast Conference should be must-see TV with its new Thursday night games on ESPN2.

Two out of three ain't bad...

You might remember that Davis has been on the Siena bandwagon since March. During the Selction Show on CBS, he first picked Siena to knock off Vandy when the pairings were announced.

You can read the whole discussion here...

Less than a week before Siena tips off the season against Boise State on Monday, Nov. 17.

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

RPI gets '86ed

The origin is uncertain for the slang term "86ed," but it means to cancel, throw out (replace) or remove.

Usually used in the restaurant business, unfortunatley it fits pretty well for what happend to the RPI football team in their last meaningful game at '86 Field in Troy.

The Engineers dropped their first game of the season on Saturday, on the last play, as Hobart freshman Conor Callahan kicked a 38-yard field goal to give the Statesman a 20-17 victory.

Here is the definition of "86ed" that I found most fitting for the situation.

A coffin is usually eight feet long and is buried six feet under. Once in your coffin you've been 'eight by sixed', which shortens to '86ed'

That's pretty much what I think RPI's season has come to unless something miraculous happens in the final week of the season (i.e. Hobart loses to Rochester).

If Hobart loses and RPI win, then RPI is in the NCAA Tournament, getting the Liberty League's automatic bid.

I'm not saying it can't happen - that's why they play the game.

In fact, RPI beat Hobart last year and the NCAA still took the Statesman, who were 8-2, as the No. 5 seed, while RPI, who finished 8-1 got the No. 4 seed.

There are many different scenarios where RPI could get in, they just have to focus on beating Merchant Marine next week.

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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Siena vs. Union reaction

If Saturday night was any indication of the type of nights sophomore guard Clarence Jackson can have then Siena opponents beware.

Jackson scored a game-high 27 points and shot 7-for-10 from beyond the arc to lead Siena past Union College 99-47 on Saturday night at the ARC.

"I felt like I played really well," Jackson said. "I got really comfortable in there."

Siena coach Fran McCaffery was happy with Jackson's defense and getting on the glass as well as his scoring and even wanted to keep him in longer.

"He hasn’t played extended minutes," McCaffery said. "He has to understand he’s going to play extended minutes. When he’s playing well offensively, I’m going to leave him out there, so he’s got to play through that little bit of fatigue and not break down."

Jackson told me following the game that he's hoping to fill part of the void missing from Tay Fisher's graduation - either providing a spark off the bench or starting if need be.

Jackson's confidence seems to be high and that's good for Siena.

"I just try to shoot it with confidence and it’s going to go in," Jackson said.

Senior captain Kenny Hasbrouck thinks that with consistency Jackson will be able to have some big nights this season.

"Him and Ryan (Rossiter) are basically the future of Siena right now," Hasbrouck said.

Rossiter didn't play because of injuries in the legs (knee) - neither did Josh Duell (foot) or Cory Magee (concussion).

Because of that, freshman Owen Wignot got a start, which he said he was surprised about when he found out two hours before tip-off.

"I was shocked, but I just tried to go out and do my best," Wignot said.

Wignot scored 11 points and was a positive according to McCaffery as was fellow freshman Kyle Downey, who scored 19.

"It really wasn’t anything I did," Downey said. "I just hit open shots. Everyone found open shots for me, so it was my teammates that helped me do that."

If that's not doing anything then I'm not sure what I did on the sidelines really doing nothing.

Downey said he was happy to get the nerves out in an exhibition game, but very excited that there were plenty of people there and there was a game atmosphere.

"That’s one thing I love about Siena, our support is amazing," Downey said. "Even for an exhibition game we had probably three of four thousand people there. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like during the season."

I'll give Downey a pass since he's a freshman...the crowd was good, but it was only 1,622.

Speaking of the crowd, it was lively, especially at the beginning.

"That’s the first time I’ve ever played in the ARC in front of a crowd like that against another team," Hasbrouck said. "It was a fun time. It was a great time for everybody, for the Siena community."

McCaffery said afterwards that they would consider doing this again and he much prefers this to a intrasquad scrimmage like the Green/Gold game that Siena has had in years past.

"I don’t like the Green/Gold game," McCaffery said. "It really serves no purpose whatsoever. I like exhibition games because it serves as a dress rehearsal."

Edwin Ubiles also scored 19 points and Ronald Moore had seven steals in 17 minutes.

The first game is only nine days away though and Boise State will look much different than Union.

"We have some work to do with the schedule that we have coming up," McCaffery said. "I think we’re making progress."

I'll have some more notes from the scrimmage tomorrow.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Remembering '86 Field

Saturday will be an emotional day for the RPI football program.

It will be the last regular season game played at '86 Field - a gift to the school from the class of 1886.

The program is welcoming back any former players before Saturday's game.

I had a chance to speak with some alumni in doing a story for Thursday's (11/6) paper.

Here's what some of the guys had to say.

"It’s meant a lot, but I’m not going to think about it until it’s done," RPI coach Joe King said.

"It’s a special place," senior quarterback Jimmy Robertson said.

"I felt we had a tremendous advantage playing there," said former player and coach and current President of RPI Football Alumni Association Mark Clark ('89).

Here's a picture of one of the most memorable games - 2003's East Regional Final vs. Ithaca.

(Photo courtesy Eric Ren)

You may think that's a really hard picture to see anything, but that's how it actually looked on that December day.

I was a student at Ithaca and doing sidelines on the radio. It was unlike anything I've ever seen.

Here's former quarterback Dan Cole's ('04) answer when I asked him what sticks out in his mind from playing on '86 Field.

"One thing that sticks out is beating Union twice on our home field in my career," Cole said. "The most significant one that sticks out in my head is the Snow Bowl, when we played in two feet of snow against Ithaca."

If the Engineers can win their final two games, they will likely get a home playoff game, but this could be the last time anyone laces it up on '86 Field.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Statesmen ready for #20 RPI

Here's some quotes from the Hobart football team, courtesy of the Finger Lakes Times, after their 31-14 victory over WPI on Saturday as they look forward to their big matchup with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on Saturday, Nov. 8.

"We’re a confident team going in there," senior quarterback Rich Doyle said. "We know this is for everything."

"Earlier, I would have said we’re going to have a real tough time with RPI. Now, we have a shot," Hobart coach Mike Cragg concluded. "We’ve gone down there and won before. I don’t have any problem thinking we can go down there and beat them on their field."

The Engineers (5-0, 7-0) will be playing their last regular season game at '86 Field in Troy.

Hobart has been the team to beat since the Liberty League formed in 2004.

2004: 9-2 (7-0 LL) Loss to Rowan in NCAAs
2005: 9-2 (6-1 LL) Beat Cortland; loss to Del Valley in NCAAs
2006: 8-2 (5-1 LL) Loss to Rowan in NCAAs
2007: 8-3 (6-1 LL) Loss to St. John Fisher in NCAAs
2008: 6-1 (4-1 LL) ????

Also, RPI has only defeated Hobart once, last year's 35-31 victory in Geneva, during those four seasons.

It should be a great game.

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Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Shoes fit for RPI

It wasn't pretty, but RPI made it three in a row on Saturday, defeating Union 25-12 and retaining the Dutchman Shoes Trophy.

“There’s nothing better than the feeling of winning the Shoes,” sophomore receiver Patrick McCarthy said.

The Engineers are now 7-0 and have only two games remaining.

McCarthy's big return is what set up RPI's comeback after they feel behind 12-7 on a 65-yard touchdown run by Chris Coney.

“We needed something,” RPI coach Joe King said. “We needed a jumpstart, now we’re trailing, they just had a 70-yard run and we hadn’t done too much offensively.”

Who would have thought that 6-foot-2, 250-pound senior defensive lineman James McLaughlin would have a catch before senior wide receiver Eren Savasli.

McLaughlin and Savasli both caught touchdown passes from senior quarterback Jimmy Robertson to put the Engineers up for good.

“I’m happy for (McLaughlin) because he’s been working hard all year and wanting coach to call his number,” Robertson said.

Savasli averages more than seven catches a game, but his one on Saturday was deadly; a 55-yard touchdown strike.

“You know he’s going to get one of those,” McCarthy said. “He’s a big playmaker and you give him an opportunity, he’s going to take it.”

“(Savasli) didn’t have a lot of opportunities today,” King said. “They really did a good job taking him out and we went to some other kids a little bit.”

While RPI's offense didn't play their best, their defense was up to the challenge.

I was also impressed Union's defense played as well as they did.

“I don’t know if we came out flat,” McCarthy said. “They played really well on defense.”

Coney finished with 128 yards, but was limited except for the big touchdown run.

“I wish we could have given it to him more,” Union coach John Audino said. “We got behind a little bit in the second half and obviously, with seven minutes to go in the game, it’s difficult to give your bread-and-butter guy the rock.”

Here's what some of the particpants had to say after the game....

“Between the misplays and the turnovers, it gives a good team an opportunity to get some easy scores and that’s what happened,” Audino said.

“I played all right, but not to the best of my ability,” Coney said. “There are no moral victories.”

“They made some plays on defense in the first half,” Robertson said. “They were really stopping us, shutting us down and taking away those big plays we’ve had all year. In the second half, Coach made a couple good calls and we just executed.”

“That’s what this team is all about,” Savasli said. “We have playmakers and we expect everyone to go out there and make plays.”

RPI has taken it one game at a time and next week is huge when they take on Hobart in what almost becomes a Liberty League championship game.

“We kept everything exactly the same as far as meetings and times, there was nothing special (this week) and it’ll be the same thing next week,” King said.

“We treated this game just like a playoff game and that’s what we have to do next week,” Robertson said.

“All week we’re going to come focused and prepare for that," Savasli said. "We know we have two more steps to attain our preseason goal of going undefeated. Being the last game on ’86 (Field) there is going to be a lot of emotion and everybody is going to have to bring their ‘A’ game to come out with the victory against Hobart.”

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