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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)
COACH AND PROGRAM
It was easy for the Siena basketball team to overachieve last season.
Coming off a 6-24 season and having lost their top returning player to injury over the summer, the Saints were nearly a unanimous choice to finish last in the MAAC in Fran McCaffery's first season.
In yet another example of preseason predictions gone awry, the Saints -- despite their lack of depth and size -- proved all of the prognosticators (including Blue Ribbon and the MAAC coaches) wrong and fashioned a fine 15-13 season that included a fourth-place finish in the conference.
Now, with three starters and a healthy Michael Haddix returning and a highly touted freshman class arriving in New York's Capital District, public opinion on the Saints has taken a 180-degree turn.
"I think the outlook across the board is the complete opposite," said McCaffery, who agreed to a "redesigned" five-year deal less than three weeks after last season ended. "It was probably lower than it should have been last year and it's probably higher than it should be this year. ... To me, it's more of a function of us having that hunger we did last year."
If the Saints display that, they will be one of the better teams in the league. The return of Haddix, a 6-6 monster in the middle, and the addition of four freshmen who stand 6-6 or taller give McCaffery's sharp-shooting team more options.
"Now we have the depth and size to absorb some injuries and handle the rigors of the season," McCaffery said.
Which means Siena won't be relegated to the spread-the-floor-and-drive game it was forced into most of the time last season.
"It [depth] can allow us to play the way that I want to play," McCaffery said. "I want to play a little more pressure defense and I was unable to do that last year because of a short bench."
Siena was also unable to establish a reliable post game. That changes with Haddix -- who tore his Achilles tendon on a trip to China with the MAAC All-Stars in July 2005 -- back in the lineup.
The lefty has averaged 14.7 points and 7.7 rebounds in a career that has been hampered by injuries, including 17 games with a broken leg in 2004-05. If he can stay healthy, Siena will be able to compete with anyone in the league on any night.
"He's very crafty, he's tough and I think very confident," McCaffery said. "He's pretty cerebral, and any team that has a low-post scorer like Mike is, it takes the pressure off the perimeter and we've got some pretty good perimeter players."