Game 071:(5) Iona 68, (10) Siena 51 MAAC First Round Friday, March 4, 2005 HSBC Arena - Buffalo, NY
It doesn't matter what type of measurement apparatus you use, Siena's season has been a complete disaster. When you finish 4-15 in conference and 6-24 overall, when you've lost 17 of your last 20, there's really nothing to smile about.
So after years reveling in MAAC championships and conference tourney runs, the program has hit rock bottom. They have never lost this many games in a season, and it will undoubtedly be the end of Rob Lanier's tenure as coach. Making things worse was the fact that their fifth-seeded opponent was missing two starters. Didn't help Siena shoot any better (36%) or make any runs (10 first-half minutes without a field goal).
But despite the long odds, a clutch of intrepid Siena students made the journey up the New York Thruway to cheer on their 10th-seeded Saints. As time slipped away, and shot after shot bounced away from the rim, it became obvious that there would be no stardust sprinkles, no Tournament 16th seed like the one they stole out of the lower bracket back in 2002. So instead of focusing their attention on the remainder of the gameplay, or blaming the referees for theit team's troubles, the fans bean acting very strangely.
"Please welcome the Iona College cheerleaders," boomed the P.A. announcer.
"Booooo!" one gentleman in a Siena sweatshirt bellowed. "You suck!"
The nice lady at the ticket booth had put me smack-dab in the middle of the Siena section, and couldn't resist breaking and entering into the narrative. "C'mon, man," I said, turning slightly. "Booing cheerleaders? That's harsh."
"Hey, buddy," he replied cavalierly as an old-school hip-hop megamix spilled from the overhead speaker banks. "Who f*cking asked you?"
As Siena enters this crucial period of transition, its fans may want to take a moment and examine the odd circumstances that got them to this low point of low points. The Saints play at the large and cavernous Pepsi Arena in downtown Albany - when the team is introduced, the lights go down and there is an intricate light show with loud pulsing rap music. During timeouts, a loud emcee masters the ceremonies. When you have NBA presentation, you'll probably expect NBA performance.
Maybe it's time for Siena basketball to go back to basics, and use the long summer as an extended reality check. This is the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, not the Big East, and this is one of the many leagues that requires patience from its fans. And since the team's profile in recent years has been one of successfully rebounding from adverse in-game and in-season situations, this shouldn't be too difficult a stretch. One bad recruiting class and a debilitating series of injuries doesn't mean you have to dump a decent and loyal coach, a packed gym is a better homecourt advantage than a two-thirds empty arena, and booing pretty girls is like cheering for Satan.