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Know! Your! Foe! - Siena.

In their final game before Christmas, Princeton travels to Siena for the first time. As part of the lead up to this matchup, I exchanged emails with Ryan Restivo from the web site for the latest and greatest edition of Know! Your! Foe!.

Our conversation can be found after the jump.

If you cover a team the Tigers will face down the line, let us know. It would be great to talk with you.

How different is Siena in 2011-12 without big man Ryan Rossiter?

Very different would be an understatement. Siena brought in six newcomers, three of which now play. Two from Africa/prep school are ineligible this year and freshman Devonte Beard left due to homesickness at the end of this semester. The Saints still play a similar type of game on offense and somewhat on defense, just with different scorers.

Tell me a bit about freshman guard Evan Hymes, who leads three Saints in double figures. How much of a surprise has he been?

Hymes is a great find. Barely recruited out of high school and signed in the summer when the Saints had an available scholarship - Hymes has come in and been a real gamer so far. With Sophomore Rahkeem Brookins out for the season - who scored 12 against Princeton last year - Hymes stepped in right away at the point guard spot and hasn't given the Saints a scoring point guard. At 5'8", it would be difficult for him to be anything but a point guard but he has been playing fearless basketball making plays. He's been a streaky shooter but can carry the Saints offense when the inside game isn't working like when he scored 21 in Siena's last win over Albany at home.

Has anyone figured out how to stop OD Anosike on the glass? His 12.1 rebounds/game and 26.3% defensive rebounding numbers are impressive.

Fouls are his kryptonite. Late in the UMass game, Anosike and Hymes trapped a player at half court and it looked like Siena was about to have a fast break to take a lead - but once Anosike grabbed the ball he was instantly fouled by the trailing player on a reach in. He said he was going to pass it to Hymes who was a foot out in front but was fouled before he could. Anosike's free throw shooting, while so far (small sample) improving over the last three seasons, still is only at 48.1%. In the UMass game it always seemed like he was making the first and missing the second, but his shots are a sight to watch.

If you don't foul him, good luck defending him because he's tough in the post and if he doesn't give away fouls early and end up on the bench - he's tough to stop for a full 40 minutes - which is pretty much what most starting Saints play anyway.

How has Mitch Buonaguro been received through 1.3 seasons? Fran McCaffery's shoes were certainly big ones to fill.

I think fans are starting to see what type of team they are going to see for the rest of this season. It's a team that will play methodically in the half court working the ball inside to O.D. Anosike who hopefully converts inside before being fouled, or having Kyle Downey hit a mid-range jumper or have Evan Hymes create. Those look like Siena's top three options right now but the fans that want to see a winner year in and year out aren't used to seeing a team like this actively developing since probably Fran's first year. McCaffery apparently called Buonaguro following Siena's Albany Cup win and this team has showed signs of competing against UMass before falling late but the Monday game against Fordham - this team simply didn't show up.

Is depth an issue for Siena? I see four players averaging 30+ minutes and two reserves playing 22+.

Depth is a huge issue. Trenity Burdine has been out since the beginning of the season with complications from a foot injury but is set to return soon, potentially as soon as Thursday against Princeton but it's still up in the air. Rahkeem Brookins was ruled out for the season one week before the Saints' first game with a herniated disc and a bulging disc in his back. Add to that two of Siena's six-man class, Imoh Silas and Lionel Gomis were ruled to have to redshirt one full year before having three years of eligibility according to the NCAA.

The depth issues have continued into the season with senior Owen Wignot hurting himself in the first game of the season in the first half and missing the next five games. Add to that Davonte Beard leaving the program last week and the Saints will likely be playing seven scholarship players throughout the year into conference play where they will have to play two games in three days six times.

This is my first trip to the Times Union Center. Is the atmosphere still on par with its reputation?

The Times Union Center is a great arena to watch a game. Having recently went to the Saints game in Springfield, you get a more intimate atmosphere in Springfield and I understand why the MAAC would move the tournament there to a neutral location. For Siena fans, the fact that they have an arena in a league where the majority of teams host their games in gym-like places makes the fans want an immediate winner even more. I've been to the center countless times and it is one of the best places to watch a game in the MAAC and when it gets truly rocking, it is a great atmosphere to play in - Siena's arena is high-major caliber with a mid-major with high expectations playing in it.

Fill in a blank or two, please. Siena heads into the holidays happy if...

If Siena plays zone, they hold Princeton to 33% from the arc and they work the ball inside to O.D. and get some baskets with fouls. Siena's game plan when I've watched so far is to be methodical in the halfcourt and run a lot more sets than in past years and try and bait the opponent into shooting a lot of three's on the opposite end. They are prone to getting tired late because of the depth issues, so if they can take a lead and weather the storm late this could be a big Siena win heading into the holidays.

Interesting stat, Siena 5th in the nation in fouling rate on defense (FTA). Going back to when Fran McCaffery was at Siena, the Saints have ranked in the top 11 in terms of defensive FTA rate in all but one year (last year) where they were 48th. Is this a skill? I don't know but Siena tends to foul an extremely low amount in their games.

Princeton wins their second straight over the Saints if...

They can exploit Siena's depth issues. If O.D. Anosike gets two fouls before 10 minutes left in the first half and is effectively neutralized for a quarter of the game. It will be interesting to see what Saints team shows up after the Fordham game and finals - but Siena's offense has had trouble maintaining consistency and that's what the Tigers will have to exploit to beat the Saints at the Times Union Center.

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Thanks for your time. Here's to a good game.

Steven Postrel said,

December 20, 2011 @ 4:19 pm

Sounds like big job for Connolly and Darrow against Anosike. At least they can use a lot of fouls on him.

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