With Kansas finally getting their home opener against a non-Power 5 opponent, it’s time to get to know the opponent. As usual, Kansas has a pretty tough slate in the non-conference, but there are a lot of mid-level teams that we don’t usually hear a lot about until we play them. To help fill our gaps of knowledge, I reached out to Austin Brown over at Mid Major Madness, the SB Nation site that covers the vast array of mid-major and low-major teams in the college basketball landscape. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.
RCT: Most of our readers aren’t familiar with Siena or the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). Siena finished third in the conference last year with a 13-7 record, losing in the MAAC tournament to eventual champion Iona. Which key contributors from that team are missing this year, and who are the main guys returning?
MMM: Siena brought back almost their entire team from last season. They only lost one starter, and their five leading scorers are all back. The Saints are led by four seniors, Marquis Wright, Brett Bisping, Javion Ogunyemi and Lavon Long. Sophomore Nico Clareth is also expected to expand his role from last season. He has tallied 14 points in each of Siena’s first two games this season.
RCT: Which newcomers are expected to help contribute this year? Which one are you most excited to see suit up for the team?
MMM: Since they didn’t lost much from last season, they also didn’t add to many players to the roster. They have two freshmen, Khalil Richard and Ashante Shivers, who will come off the bench and provide key rotation minutes. Given the Saints’ depth at the guard position, Richard and Shivers may see their minutes fluctuate depending on the night.
RCT: Typically a team like Kansas is one of the highlights of the non-conference schedule for teams outside the major conferences. What other games are Siena fans looking forward to this year, and how well do you think the schedule is matched to the abilities of this team?
MMM: The Jayhawks are far and away the best team Siena will play this season. This is their only matchup against a power-five team, so you can bet that Siena fans are jacked up for this one. The rest of their non-conference schedule is fairly weak. They only have two other matchups against KenPom top 100 teams, St. Bonaventure and Florida Gulf Coast. They also have the annual Albany Cup game against cross town rival Albany on November 29. Siena won this game last season for the first time since 2011, so Albany will no doubt come out seeking revenge.
RCT:We’ve already seen at least one crazy upset in this young season, with Wagner upsetting #18 Connecticut on opening night. Are there any key matchups or strengths on this team that might give them some opportunity to shock the Jayhawks in their home opener?
MMM: In order to pull an upset of this magnitude, you need players who can get hot from the perimeter. Marquis Wright shot 44% from 3 last season and has made 7 of his 12 attempts so far this season. Siena is also very disciplined and does not beat themselves. They have one of the lowest turnover rates in the country, and like I said earlier they are led by several experienced seniors. A lot of these guys have never played in an environment like Allen Fieldhouse, so we will see if the moment is too big for them or not.
RCT: How DO you see this game going? How long do you think this game stays competitive? Any particular Siena players that you think are going to shine in this matchup?
MMM: Though not impossible, this would be a monumental upset. Kansas only has three players, Frank Mason, Landen Lucas and Tyler Self who have EVER lost a home game in a Jayhawk uniform. If Marquis Wright can have a career night and get some help from a few of his teammates, I think Siena can keep it close for awhile. This will be the biggest game of Wright’s career, so look for him to shine tonight. Siena is a guard heavy team that does not rebound the ball very well. That will hurt them against Kansas’ talented front line. Final score prediction: Siena keeps it close in the first half, but Kansas wins 91-75.
RCT: BONUS - Which would you prefer, a personal chef or personal assistant?
MMM: Chef, and it ain’t even close.
A big thanks to Austin for helping us out today. Don’t forget to check out the questions that I answered for him over on Mid Major Madness as well.