LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. — All eyes will be on Siena College this Friday at 2:30 p.m. when the Saints take on No. 4 seeded Purdue University in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Spokane, Wash.
The Saints were awarded the No. 13 seed in the South region, and a place in the NCAA tournament for the third straight year when the brackets were released this week.
“The Siena community takes great pride in the accomplishment of our team,” said president Kevin Mullen, OFM, who is traveling to Spokane for the game. “The student-athletes and the coaches regularly represent our school on a national stage, and we are pleased to give the team our full support.”
Siena earned the MAAC berth by defeating Fairfield University 72 to 65 last week in overtime in the MAAC championship in Albany, N.Y. The Saints go to the tournament 27 to 6 overall, and face tough competition from the top-ranked Purdue Boilermakers. The Siena Web site reported that the team “rallied from a 13-point second half deficit to defeat Fairfield.”
Purdue enters the tournament at 27 to 5, and finished tied for first at 14 to 4 in the Big Ten. The ESPN/USA TodayCoaches Poll ranked the Boilermakers fifth entering this week, and the AP poll put them sixth.
“I watched them against St. Joe’s in preparing for St. Joe’s,” Siena head coach Fran McCaffery said. “I wasn’t really watching Purdue. I had a chance to see them play. A really impressive team, a lot of talent, they defend. … They were probably destined to be a No. 1 seed.”
Siena is making its sixth appearance in the NCAA tournament and appears in the South region for the first time. The Saints have won at least one NCAA tournament game in four of their previous five trips, including first round victories over Vanderbilt and Ohio State in the past two years.
This will be the first time the Saints face the Boilermakers. Siena is 2 to 4 all-time against Big Ten opponents, including last year’s first round victory over Ohio State. This is the third time that the Saints will face a Big Ten NCAA opponent, having faced Minnesota in 1989 in the second round.
The winner of the Friday game advances to the second round Sunday against the winner of the game between No. 5 seed Texas A&M and No. 12 seed Utah State.
Excitement Boosts Siena Interest
The excitement of the game is good news for Siena admissions, according to the school Web site. It reported: “March Madness puts the national spotlight on Siena for a couple of weeks, which enhances our name recognition in the marketplace where high school sophomores and juniors who are beginning the college search process, may be inspired to take a deeper look into the programs offered by Siena.”
During Siena’s MAAC semifinal games, the admissions office bused 300 of their top applicants and their student hosts to the game. This spirit is carried among the 30,000 alumni and 3,000 current students of the college, as many of them will follow the team’s venture into this year’s NCAA tournament.
“The school pride is at a high this time of the year and we use this opportunity to reconnect with our alumni and friends of the college,” Dave Smith ‘79, Siena vice president for development and external affairs, said.
The success of the basketball team also increases the traffic to the college’s Web site. “Any high profile activity by a member of our community or in this case our basketball team triggers a curiosity of who we are,” Linda Richardson, vice president for academic affairs, said. “These Web site hits will highlight the opportunities available at Siena and hopefully provide a match to future students and faculty applicants,” she said.
A photo of Siena player Edwin Ubiles appeared in the March 15 issue of The New York Times with the accompanying text, “The saints bring experience, savvy and good coaching. But they are not as talented as last year’s team which beat Ohio State.”
SBU in A-10 Quarterfinal
Meanwhile at the Province’s other New York college, the news was not as good for St. Bonaventure University. No. 17 and top-seeded Temple defeated No. 8 seeded SBU 69 to 51 on March 9 in the first A-10 quarterfinal.
However, the good news was that the A-10 quarterfinal appearance was SBU’s first since 2002, as it finished the season with a 15-16 record.
The Bonnies were led by junior Lavoy Allen and the outside shooting of guard Juan Fernandez. The Web site said: “Allen’s 13th double-double of the season featured 14 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. His 15 rebounds are the most by a player in the A-10 tournament since 2005. Fernandez had 12 of his game-high 17 points in the first half, as he knocked down 4-of-5 from long range and dished out seven assists without a turnover.”
— Compiled by Wendy Healy and Jocelyn Thomas