It’s the time of year that every team lives for. The time of year where every previous game played doesn’t mean a thing. Survive and advance.
That time of year is one that many sports outlets like to call “March Madness”. It seems as if when March rolls around, any team can beat anyone on any given night, as the whole nation saw when Hartford shocked 3-time defending America East Champion, Albany.
But that was then and this is now, and tonight at 7:00 P.M. starts a new journey for Siena, a journey that brings along some of the best college basketball games you can watch all year.
When Siena plays Manhattan tonight at the Times Union Center, it’s going to be a lot more than “just another game” for both of these teams. It’s a battle for their lives, a single game that decides whether you play Sunday night or not.
The Manhattan Jaspers who just so happen to be back to back MAAC tournament champions, have already seen what it’s like to play in the big tournament, but they will have a tough test coming up. At 13-17 overall, the Jaspers went on a late season skid, where they lost 4 out of their last 5 games, before defeating Marist in the opening round of the MAAC tournament. With 4 guys averaging over 10 points per game in comparison to Siena, who has 5. It’s going to take an all around effort to defeat this tough, and very balanced Siena team. Forward Shane Richards, who averages nearly 18 ppg and 4 rpg, is going to have a great matchup on his hands with Siena’s Brett Bisping and Ryan Oliver. As we have seen all year, the Jaspers have what it takes to beat anyone on any given night, and know exactly what it takes to win this whole tournament.
Onto the Siena side of things. The Saints come into this one 20-11 overall, after having a first round bye in the tournament. It’s safe to say that this is the best Siena team that the capitol region has seen in nearly 5 years. Led by forward Brett Bisping, the Saints have also shown the guts and will to go beat anyone on any given night. They defeated Iona at Iona just a few weeks ago, and with home court advantage throughout the whole tournament, the sky is the limit for this team. Having perhaps the hardest road to glory in the whole tournament, they are going to have to get through Manhattan first to even begin thinking about the next round. These two teams have split their regular season matchups, featuring a 3OT thriller in which Manhattan knocked off the Saints. This is a Saints team that gets it done on both sides of the ball, featuring the MAAC Six Man of the Year Nico Clareth, and Defensive Player of the year Javion Ogunyemi. But it’s not just those two that is having opposing coaches lose sleep the night before playing Siena, it’s the deadly combo of Marquis Wright and Brett Bisping as well, and when you throw in the shooting abilities and experience of Ryan Oliver, watchout MAAC.
It’s a matchup that will feature dynamic guard play and even better matchups down low with an electric atmosphere. With almost 8,500 expected, you don’t want to miss this one. It all goes down tonight at 7:00 at the Times Union Center. Can’t make it? Tune in on ESPN3 or TALK1300.