Last year’s 2010 NCAA Tourney banner was unveiled but it was not so much a celebration for the Siena faithful as it was a remembrance of what was. That was the theme of the evening, what was and what’s next for the Siena Saints.

What was is the Saints did not have the big “3” to will them to victory in an off night (36% from the field, 21% from 3-PT range), and what’s next for the Saints is a team searching for its identity. This game proved that with a new coaching staff, promising young freshman (Rakeem “The Rock” Brookins – 17 minutes, Trenity Burdine – 18 minutes) and sophomores (O.D. Anosike, Jonathan Breeden), there are going to be growing pains. The Saints looked out of sync at times at both ends of the floor, showing glimmers of athleticism, quickness, “forcing it” (20 turnovers, 13steals), and gut with that late second half comeback run that fell one possession short.

Room for Improvement:
The Saints were out rebounded 44-30 and Vermont’s bench outscored the Saints 45-16. These two areas are a lethal combination for a loss, and will sure be in the thoughts of the coaching staff on the long flight today to Minnesota. This is the biggest front court Siena has put together in years, and to get out rebounded by a smaller team by that kind of margin is unexplainable. In my opinion, it comes from guys being out of position on the defensive end and missing assignments around the rim. Up next is Minnesota, an upper echelon Big 10 team that prides itself on bodying up and hitting the glass. With the result of last nights performance, Minnesota will provide a mighty challenge for Rossiter, Anosike, Martens, Priestly, and Walters tomorrow evening. Where was Siena’s deep bench last evening? To get outscored by that large of a margin, when it is clear the bench is going to be asked to contribute this year, is nerve racking. Okay I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to first game jitters, but its clearly another concern heading into Monday’s game against Minnesota.

Keys to Success:
The Saints showed some guts and resiliency last evening clawing back into the game with the opportunity to force overtime in the final minutes if one bounce went their way. The Saints pressure defense was stifling, the team looked very comfortable forcing pressure, jumping passing lanes, leading to steals (13), and transition opportunities. Also the athleticism and potential of freshman point guard Rakeem “The Rock” Brookins was very promising. In the final ten minutes of the game, he looked very comfortable running the offense, was able to draw defensive attention with his dribble penetration, leading to easy baskets for Siena’s frontcourt, especially Ryan Rossiter (27points, 10rebounds). In his first college game, the glimpses of what are to come were very exciting, he was by far the quickest player on the court, and with some experience, he will provide us with some highlight reel moments. He has MAAC Rookie of the Year potential, yes he is that good.

Five Facts:
1. Ryan Rossiter had 27 points (career high), and his 31st regular season double-double.
2. Clarence Jackson had a career high 5 steals.
3. Siena’s last home opener loss was Nov. 29 2006 vs Hofstra.
4. Rossiter was a perfect 11-11 from the charity stripe.
5. Saints point guards (Griffin and Brookins) combined for seven (7) assists.

Five Questions:
1. How will this team respond to an early loss?
2. Who will start at PG in the next game Brookins or Griffin?
3. What happened to the new hi-tech scoreboard midway through the first half (that’s what exhibitions are for, right?)
4. How does the biggest front court in Siena history get outrebounded 44-30?
5. When does Kyle Downey return? He was sorely missed.

Five Words:
Patience is a good thing