Keys to No. 11 Quinnipiac men’s matchup against No. 3 Siena in MAAC quarterfinals

Toyloy Brown III, Managing Editor

Quinnipiac will play a Siena team that swept them during the regular season but is without All-MAAC Third Teamer Anthony Gaines for the MAAC quarterfinals. (Connor Lawless)

No. 11 Quinnipiac (13-16, 7-13 MAAC) plays No. 3 Siena (15-13, 12-8 MAAC) at 7 p.m. March 10. The Bobcats are coming off an upset victory against No. 6 Marist, their first playoff win in four years. They benefited from a barrage of 17 triples, a mark they hadn’t hit in the past two seasons.

The Saints defeated Quinnipiac in both of their regular-season matchups. In the Saints’ season sweep, they shot 52% from the floor and averaged 81.5 points per game, posting two of their four highest-scoring marks this season. 

While the regular season indicates Siena has an edge against Quinnipiac, it may not be that simple in today’s win-or-go-home contest. Here are the elements of the game to be mindful of. 

Absence of Siena’s Anthony Gaines  

Quinnipiac will face a team that is not at full strength. Siena does not have graduate student guard Anthony Gaines due to a torn ACL in his right knee. The injury happened during the team’s loss to Canisius in its last game of the season on March 6. 

The Northwestern transfer made the All-MAAC Third Team after averaging per-game stats of  10.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists on 41.1% field-goal shooting. In the two games Gaines played against Quinnipiac, he exuded his overall dominance on the court, averaging 11 PPG, 10.5 RPG, five APG and two steals per game. 

With his absence, the Bobcats will need to capitalize. Quinnipiac should be able to limit the scoring punch of a Siena team without its third-leading scorer. The Bobcats’ backcourt should have an easier time scoring as Gaines’ omission leaves the Saints without an above-average defender. 

Battle of the guards 

Gaines’ injury is a sizable blow to Siena’s backcourt, making it even more imperative that Quinnipiac’s guards take care of business since they possess more firepower. 

Redshirt junior guard Matt Balanc and sophomore guard Dezi Jones need to continue being the Bobcats’ drink-stirrers on offense. Both are coming off strong outings against Marist, scoring over 17 points each. 

Siena still has its best offensive player, junior guard Colby Rogers. The All-MAAC Second Teamer and Cal Poly transfer will likely give the Bobcats fits with his size as a 6-foot-5 guard who can create his own shot from all three levels. He averaged 14.1 PPG on 43.2% shooting from the field and 42.4% from beyond the arc on six 3-point attempts. 

While the scoring load Rogers has to carry without Gaines is heavy, it is not impossible to manage — he scored a season-high 27 points against Quinnipiac Jan. 30.

Quinnipiac head coach Baker Dunleavy will likely stick sophomore wing Tymu Chenery — the team’s best perimeter defender at 6-foot-6 — on Siena’s bucket getter if he gets rolling. 

Interior defense 

The interior defense of both teams will be important to monitor. Quinnipiac is known as a team without a rim protector. The opposite is true for Siena.

Graduate student center Kevin Marfo will be defended by Siena senior center Jackson Stormo who averaged the third most blocks per game during MAAC play. (Connor Lawless)

The Saints are third in blocks per game (4.04) in the MAAC, and senior center Jackson Stormo averaged 1.3 BPG this season in MAAC play, good for third in the conference. 

The 6-foot-9 Stormo will exercise verticality — keeping arms straight up when body contact is made with the offensive player — on scorers at the rim. This will affect graduate student center Kevin Marfo and his at-rim finishing as well as the penetration from guards like Jones.

Scoring around the hoop will be important because it is unlikely that Quinnipiac matches its 3-point shooting prowess from the opening round game against Marist. 

Defensively, the Bobcats’ rim protection is lackluster — the team ranked last in blocks per game. This is bad news for them as the Saints do most of their damage closer to the hoop, shooting the second-least total attempts from beyond the arc this season in the MAAC.

A final word

Siena is a 1.5-point underdog against Quinnipiac, meaning oddsmakers think it is a toss-up for the Bobcats to complete the victory that would bring the lowest seed in the conference to the MAAC semifinals. This reality is understandable but still a weird twist of fate as it was only five days ago that Quinnipiac capped off its sixth consecutive loss. 

But in a tournament where the No. 1 Iona men’s basketball team was bounced in the quarterfinals against No. 9 Rider just the day before, weird things can happen in Atlantic City.