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The Siena Saints, one of the more successful mid-majors over the last few years, come to The Barn on Monday to take on the Gophers in the second game of the 2010-11 season.  Siena uncharacteristically lost at home in it’s season opener on Saturday to Vermont, but brings an up-tempo style of play that could cause the Gophers problems if they have any mental lapses or run into cold shooting.  Siena brings an experienced, tournament-tested squad led by forward Ryan Rossiter and guard Clarence Jackson who can put up points quickly with such dangerous inside-outside weapons at their disposal.  From The Barn asked for some input from the guys at SienaSaintsBlog.com on what to expect from Siena on Monday night.  Also, be sure to check out our input for SSB’s game preview.

FTB: Siena has enjoyed tremendous success at the mid-major level over the last few years.  What has been the biggest catalyst in moving the Saints from the MAAC basement to being a perennial conference champion?

SSB: Well, to be completely honest, the departure of Ronald Moore, Alex Franklin, and Edwin Ubiles will surely be felt by this Siena team. The catalyst for this team’s success was “the big 3” who graduated this past offseason.  Fran McCaffery’s run and gun system fit the players he recruited extremely well.

FTB: Aside from a first round upset of Ohio State in 2009, the Saints haven’t had any wins over major programs despite very impressive win totals.  What has prevented them from getting over the hump and getting it done against a big-time school?

SSB: Siena was able to defeat both Vanderbilt and Ohio State in 2008 and 2009 respectivly and came up short in 2010 against Purdude in the first round.  Early in the 2008 season, Siena beat the 20th ranked Stanford Cardinal, and that’s all the big time wins they could muster up.  Siena really was right there step for step with Louisville in the second round of the 2009 NCAA tournament, but honestly, I think their inability to advance has been largely hampered by luck.  When it comes to mid-major schools advancing in the NCAA tournament, I really think it’s the luck of the draw as far as how you fall into the bracket and how you match up with those teams.

FTB: Former coach Fran McCaffery, perhaps the most successful coach in the program’s history, has moved on.  How will new coach Mitch Buonaguro affect the program going forward?

SSB: The Saints have had a tradition of starting out slow.  I think for Mitch to turn that around and get people excited about Siena right away would be great for the program.  Fran is beloved in Albany, and I think the Buonaguro hire was to keep that Fran feel around the team, keep that style of play.  There’s no doubt Fran put us on the map, the question is can Mitch keep up the level that Fran was able to recruit at.

FTB: Siena lost their top two scorers from last year to graduation.  Who is expected to fill that vacuum and who do the Gophers need to watch out for?

SSB: I think without a doubt teams are going try to shut down Ryan Rossiter at all costs. That said, I would really watch out for Clarence Jackson.  He was out for the NCAA tournament last year, but he can really fill it up from any part of the floor.

FTB: If the Saints want to take down Minnesota on the road, what do they need to do pull it off?

SSB: Everyone stepping off the bench to play extremely solid.

FTB: What are your expectations for Siena this season, and how do you see the MAAC shaping up when all is said and done?

SSB: I think in the MAAC, this is Fairfield’s year.  The expectations are always very high in Albany, NY.  If you don’t win the MAAC title, it’s not a successful year.  I could see the Saints making it to the conference championship game, but I can’t see how Fairfield isn’t dancing at the end of the year.

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