This is a big season for Siena and John Svec: The Saints have grown accustomed to winning and the team's 2013 season wasn't exactly on-par with what Siena has put together in recent history. There are lots of wins to be had on the team's 2014 schedule, but for the Saints a return to strong execution and developed play is more of a concern than superficial wins and losses.
Here are some schedule highlights and games of note:
The Past is Prologue
May 2, 4: MAAC Tournament (at Marist)
Siena has been the unquestioned class of the MAAC since the 2009 season, going a combined 35-3 (!!!) in regular season conference play in the last five years. The details of that record are bonkers: The Saints lost twice in 2013 -- to Jacksonville (10-11, OT) and Marist (9-10, OT) -- and once in 2011 -- to Detroit (11-13). Otherwise, Siena has absolutely dominated its league since 2009, holding a combined scoring margin of plus-182 (435-253) over 34 regular season games. The Saints have straight up curb-stomped their MAAC competition during the regular over the last half-decade, but that measure of neck-breaking hasn't translated to incredible success in the MAAC Tournament: Siena has won the league's postseason event just twice in the last five seasons, falling in the final in dramatic fashion in the three years that the Saints didn't bring hardware back to Loudonville. (Siena's struggles to finish their campaigns are heightened by the fact that the Saints have been the MAAC Tournament's top seed in all but one of the last five years -- in 2013, when Siena entered the postseason ranked third and still advanced to the league championship game.) It's hard to explain why the Saints wilted at the most important point of their seasons in 2013, 2012, and 2010, but the record is clear: Siena has been cursed in MAAC Tournament finals (2013 and 2012 featured epic second half collapses; in 2010 the Saints lost at the buzzer against second-seeded Mount St. Mary's after tying the game with 1:42 to play in regulation). Summiting this mountain is vital for the Saints' program volition and to cure any psychological issues that have developed around finishing the team's MAAC drill.
A Taste for Blood
February 9: @Syracuse; March 1: @St. John's; April 22: @Albany
Siena is dangerous. Now, the Saints aren't as dangerous as they have been in the past, but there is still enough talent on Svec's roster where Siena can make a top 20 team pee its pants and rush for a security blanket. The Saints have three shots this season against strong competition, dates that could change the course of Siena's campaign: The Saints open with Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, a raging inferno of possibility if Siena can catch Syracuse napping and unready to play; at the sunrise of March the Saints will travel to St. John's for a chance to claim Queens as a part of its territory; and late in the season -- prior to the MAAC Tournament -- Siena will face Albany for the right to claim New York's Capital Region as its own. These are value-laden games; the Saints don't need wins on these dates to make their season, but victories could drive the team's momentum through the year and create internal growth.