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Albany-$iena 2015

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Times-Union starts off coverage a week early with a story on A-1 front page. For those who can't read the TU+

On Saturday, for the 15th consecutive year, they play again.

Siena and the University at Albany, separated by just eight miles, renew a basketball rivalry that once upon a time was dominated by Siena.

UAlbany has closed the gap on the court, with the men's and women's programs combining to win nine of the past 10 games between the schools.

And the Great Danes may be making up ground in other ways, too. Their success has led to national exposure, their ticket sales are climbing and next year, for the first time, they get to host a home game at SEFCU Arena against their Capital Region rival.

Meanwhile, the Siena men's program hasn't had a winning season in five years. During that time, the Great Danes men's and women's programs have seven combined NCAA Tournament appearances; the Saints have none.

For the first time, it's fair to ask: Are UAlbany's basketball programs just as successful as Siena's?

"I know what you are trying to get me to say, but I don't know if I want to say it," Siena junior forward Brett Bisping said when asked if UAlbany was catching up to Siena. "I don't think I am going to go there."

Then, he smiled, and said what he is supposed to say when talking about the UAlbany game.

"They are a good team," he said. "It's a good game, and we are going to come out ready to play."

For many years, the Saints have owned the tradition and the success over their rivals, not to mention the prestige that comes along with playing in the downtown arena.

Those who follow Siena closely cling tight to the memories of coach Mike Deane leading the upset of Stanford in the NCAAs in 1989, the teams coached by Paul Hewitt in the late 1990s and the juggernaut of Fran McCaffery in the mid 2000s.

And even through their recent struggles, the Saints men's team still has averaged no less than 6,000 fans in the 15,000-seat arena.

Siena has played at Division I, the highest level of college athletics, since the 1970s, whereas the Great Danes are relative newcomers, having only joined those ranks in 1999. But they're catching up.

The UAlbany men, who made their first two NCAA Tournament appearances in 2006 and 2007, became a national story this past March, when guard Peter Hooley hit a buzzer beater to win the America East Tournament championship game over Stony Brook. Hooley, who lost his mother to cancer last January, was a guest on SportsCenter, and his story was on the back page of the New York Post.

The UAlbany women have been to the NCAA Tournament four straight years, and their best player, Shereesha Richards, has a chance to play in the WNBA, the highest level of professional women's basketball.

In the past five seasons, neither the UAlbany men's or women's team has had a losing record. The Danes men are 102-66 in that span; during the same period, Siena has gone 66-96.

That's a complete turnabout in this once one-sided rivalry. When the series was restarted in the 2001-02 season after a 24-year hiatus, the Siena men won nine of the first 11 games.

You won't hear Siena athletic director John D'Argenio, who has been on the job for 22 years, bragging that his school's program is better than someone else's. Siena's quick to acknowledge its neighbor's success.

"(UAlbany) should be proud of their success," D'Argenio said. "The game is important to the area. That is why it's continuing, because it is embraced by the community."

Since Siena moved to Times Union Center (which was also called Knickerbocker Arena and Pepsi Arena since opening in January of 1990), the Saints' fan support has been rock solid. Siena has 4,168 current season ticket holders. In four of the past five seasons (including this one), the school has sold more than 4,000 season tickets.

That's almost four times as many as UAlbany, but the Great Danes are trending up. The UAlbany men have 1,215 season-ticket holders, a number that has risen each of the past three seasons.

Will Brown, who has been the coach at UAlbany as long as the Saints and Great Danes have played the renewed rivalry, said there isn't a hatred between the two programs.

"Siena was the only Division I program for a long time here (the Saints started in 1976), and I think a lot of people hold onto that," Brown said. "I am not going to sit here and say that we are the darlings of the area or that we have passed Siena. But don't tell me we aren't comparable."

Brown and Siena coach Jimmy Patsos are friends. They aren't over at each other's houses every other weekend playing pinochle, but there is respect from both sides. At least, that's what they say.

Brown says he roots for Patsos to do well; Patsos says the same. It's just one game where they aren't fans of each other.

"If Siena fans don't like us, that's cool," Brown said. "If our fans don't like them, that's cool."

"I think it's like the Mets and the Yankees (fans)," Patsos said. "No one went to Mets' games two years ago, and they got good, so the fans went. They will kill me around here (at Siena) for saying this, but I think it's OK that we both do well. Hey, I want Union hockey to do well. RPI hockey. I am glad the (Albany) Devils are winning. I wanted American Pharoah to come to Saratoga. There have been coaches who have coached here, and it's been like, 'It's us and no one else.' I'm not like that. It's good for our game that both teams are doing well. At least, I think so."

Every game in the series since 2001 has been played at the downtown arena, Siena's home floor. Next year it will be played for the first time in SEFCU Arena, which seats 4,538. UAlbany's finally getting Siena to agree to play a road game in the series could be taken as another sign of the increasingly even nature of the rivalry.

By then, UAlbany athletic director Mark Benson says his fans will be used to new amenities at SEFCU. Some already are in place, like a video board in one of the corners and a hospitality space on the lower level for major donors to the program. One of the complaints from fans heading into SEFCU has been the walk from the Dutch Quad parking area to the arena. On cold, snowy nights, that is no fun. Benson said a shuttle, sponsored by Mohawk Honda, is up and working for home games.

None of this, he says, is being done trying to compete or catch up with Siena, which plays in a nearly NBA-size arena.

But the improvements do at least help to even the playing field.

"I don't view it as competition at all," Benson said. "We live in an area with close to a million people, and we have 40,000 of our own alumni living here. There is enough people to support both programs. Really, I am not going to be happy until we sell out every home game."

There will be a big crowd at Times Union Center on Saturday, just like always. In 11 of the past 14 meetings, crowds of more than 10,000 have been announced, including 10,278 last year.

In the stands, there will be debates over which is the better program. But on the court, the teams say they're just playing a game.

"To be honest, I haven't paid any attention to it," said UAlbany's Richards, the best women's player in the program's history. "I don't want to say we're equal. I don't know if we are above them or under them. I don't think that is what matters. People are always going to talk. You can't let stuff like that get to you. I think people still kind of think of Siena being up there."

twilkin@timesunion.com • 518-454-5415 • @tjwilkin

Interesting that our season-ticket sales are up to 1,215, which is about 200 more than the number of chariback seats we have.

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Could this be the best both teams have been record wise coming into the game?


Combined..looks like it. Though we still have 1 game before the Saturday match-up..and Siena still has 2 more games.


In 2013..UAlbany was 5-2 going into the game..but Siena was 2-5.


In 2009..UAlbany was again 5-2..but Siena was 3-3.

Edited by Phoenix
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Could this be the best both teams have been record wise coming into the game?

Combined..looks like it. Though we still have 1 game before the Saturday match-up..and Siena still has 2 more games.


In 2013..UAlbany was 5-2 going into the game..but Siena was 2-5.


In 2009..UAlbany was again 5-2..but Siena was 3-3.

Nice, we will be more rested.

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Thanks. That means it could definitely be the best both have been at the same time.


7-3 v 7-3


If we are comparing teams and the following on the CD, then we are still losing. Siena has been dreadful and yet managed to secure 14 games to be broadcast locally by Time Warner Cable sports. We have 0 games the last time I checked.

Edited by UA'08
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  • 4 weeks later...

LCC loses at UVM, Wright apparently has a stress fracture and didn't play, fear is he's gone for the year. I watched the game, with or without him this was going to be a tough game. Going on the road is a lot harder to win then playing at home. Siena will get a taste of that next year.


For people arguing that playing at SEFCU or TUC doesn't matter...another exhibit of why it does. Going into another arena is always a challenge. Us always playing at the TUC was inexcusable.

Edited by Clickclack
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J.O. was also carried off the court near the end of the game. Couldn't put any weight on left leg it looked like.

turned it off at that point...ouch, they better hope it's not serious. Those two kids were their best kids...Wright is irreplaceable. Looks like they went from a promising year to teetering on brink of disaster. Injuries suck...can really do a number on a season.

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Vermont has beaten LCC 6 STRAIGHT years...lol!




Another example of this maac is a superior league talk being a joke.

Are there any other examples of where a so called lower level team has beaten a so called upper level league team 6 straight times :)

I could give you some examples where one team in the same league has a 6 game winning streak against another and even a few where "peer league teams " have a 6 game streak vs another :)

Edited by bob87
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Yet the LCC/MAAC are 'better' than the top AE teams. It's a good thing LCC doesn't play SB...They'd be like 1-20 to the AE.

Their bottom is better then ours. Let's not mince words, umbc, Maine, bingo and Hartford of the world's are a joke and are a perpetual anchor on the ae. Hartford makes no sense, go look at their basketball budget. Why they stink like they do with the money they spend is baffling.

Edited by Clickclack
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