When Siena and Fresno State take the floor for the final game in the CBI Championship series on Saturday morning, there has to be a massive question that everyone is asking.
How in the world did Siena get here?
This was a team that finished 15-17, and were just 4-7 in the nonconference portion of the year. They had trouble scoring, which made overcoming an average defensive efficiency difficult. They foul a lot -- three players had over 120 personal fouls so far this year -- and they send their opponents to the line so many times that the student section ran out of ways to distract the other teams' shooters.
While Fresno State was an efficient scoring team and just struggled to stop their opponents, this young Saints team defied logic advancing and even winning the first game on the road against the Bulldogs.
2014 CBI Championship Catchup
2014 CBI Championship Catch up
We threw the numbers into HOOPWAR hoping for something that would stand out and give us something to latch onto. And while it is hopeful because so many of the young players scored well compared to others in their class, it didn't show anything that you could say was the reason that they finally broke through.
No, this was a team that finally played some excellent defense during the CBI, and scored enough to get past their opponents. This was even evident during the first game of the championship series. That final 10 minutes turned the game around as Fresno State struggled to score and Siena just executed.
Game two went in the opposite direction and Fresno State truly controlled the tempo and won going away in the way they did during the season. It finally broke that string that Siena had put together which led them to a 19-18 record, and had everyone celebrating the magic of Jimmy Patsos.
We don't doubt that magic. Patsos has turned around a team that won just eight games last season, and had no player worth more than 2.5 HW30. You don't win a lot of games when your best player isn't even worth three wins.
You don't win a lot of games when your entire team HW is just three wins. This is a team that probably should have won just around 12 games this year out of the 37 they have played, and they are now at 19 with the chance to get to 20.
I think the Saints made a good hire there.
Because of that it is hard to count out Siena on Saturday. KenPom even gives the Saints a 52 percent chance of winning what should again be a very close final game.
But the numbers just stand out for Fresno State.
|Pos.*||Siena Saints||HW30||Fresno State Bulldogs||HW30|
|PG||Marquis Wright||0.79||Cezar Guerrero||3.52|
|SG||Ryan Oliver||-0.32||Tyler Johnson||7.33|
|SF||Rob Poole||2.40||Marvelle Harris||3.65|
|PF||Lavon Long||-0.91||Paul Watson||-0.35|
|C||Brett Bisping||2.43||Alex Davis||-2.47|
|6th||Evan Hymes||0.05||Allen Huddleston||1.52|
*based on highest utilization
They have the dominant player in Tyler Johnson, who does everything. Marvelle Harris and Cezar Guerrero are both better than anything that Siena puts on the floor.
Maybe the thing that stands out is that Brett Bisping goes against the the weakest link on the Bulldogs in Alex Davis, and then Tanner Giddings doesn't provide enough in relief. Maybe that is the key here in the final game. If the Saints can feed and feed and feed Bisping, they will have a chance to take this final game.
They have shown that they can get the defense all working at once, and at least slow down Fresno. But they need to do something to get that scoring rolling and Bisping is their man to do that.
With that slim chance, you have to think that the Bulldogs are going to win Saturday. Too many things have to go right for the Saints, but we won't count them out.
Too many teams did that so far in this tournament and look where they are now.
Final Prediction: Fresno State 73, Siena 64
Fresno State Bulldogs at Siena Saints
Where: Alumni Recreation Center, Loudonville, N.Y.
When: Saturday, April 5, 11:30 a.m.
Television: CBS Sports Network
Tickets: Siena College