MAAC Tournament Gameday: Niagara vs. Siena

MAAC Tournament First Round: 8-Siena vs. 9-Niagara,
5 p.m., Times Union Center, Albany


By Nick Veronica

Niagara opens the men’s portion of the MAAC Tournament today with a 5 p.m. play-in game against Siena, which is hosting the tournament at the Times Union Center. How convenient.

Niagara Purple Eagles: 7-13 MAAC, 8-21 overall, 4-9 road. RPI: 278. BPI: 311. Kenpom: 282. Streak: W4.

Siena Saints: 7-13 MAAC, 10-19 overall, 5-9 home. RPI: 269. BPI: 290. Kenpom: 285. Streak: L5.

So does Niagara have a chance or what? For most of the season, the answer to that question was a sad shrug followed by a “probably not.” Then Niagara got hot in mid-February and won four straight, giving it the longest active winning streak of any team in the conference.

Pair that with the fact that Siena has lost five in a row heading into Thursday’s game, and you have to think Niagara has a shot. What Siena has going for it is that it’s the host team, playing in its home arena in front of its home fans. But if Niagara plays strong defensively, limits offensive rebounds and has quality secondary scoring to supplement Emile Blackman, it could send Siena home early in front of its fans, which would be pretty sweet for the Purple Eagles.

The winner advances to play… Top-seeded Iona at noon Saturday. Fun. [Full bracket here]

Vegas says: Siena -3.5, at the time of this writing.

Players to watch: Siena’s Rob Poole was named Third Team All-MAAC for the second straight year while Niagara’s Dominique Reid was named to the All-Rookie Team. Blackman leads Niagara at 13.6 ppg while Poole’s 14.2 lead Siena. One player to keep and eye on is Siena forward Javion Ogunyemi, who had a big game against Niagara in Lewiston.

Series history: Season: Siena 2-0. All-time: Siena 47-46. All-time tournament: Siena 4-3. Tournament games held in Albany: Siena 4-1. Chris Casey vs. Siena: 0-4.

Random player tweets:

Also, Rob Poole’s face:

Bold prediction: Poole, who sat out Siena’s final regular season game with an ankle injury, hits at least four three-pointers to lead the Saints to victory.

Score guess: Siena 66, Niagara 64.

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