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Jeff Eisenberg

MAAC Tournament: Siena can't afford a slip-up

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Conference tournament play began Tuesday, kicking off a 12-day mad scramble for NCAA tournament berths. Up next in our previews is the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, headlined by Siena, which almost certainly needs the automatic bid to return to the NCAA tournament.

Metro Atlantic Athletic Association

Date: March 5-8

Site: Albany, N.Y. (Times Union Center)

No. 8 Loyola vs. No. 9 Manhattan
No. 7 Canisius vs. No. 10 Marist

No. 1 Siena vs. Loyola/Manhattan
No. 2. Fairfield vs. Canisius/Marist
No. 3. Iona vs. No. 6 Niagara
No. 4. St. Peters vs. No. 5 Rider

Favorite: Siena (24-6, 17-1)

Contenders: Fairfield (20-9, 13-5), Iona (21-9, 12-6), Niagara (17-14, 9-9

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Outlook: Because Siena didn't capitalize on any of its chances at marquee non-conference victories this season, the Saints will need to win this tournament to be part of March Madness again. The good news is that the three most dangerous teams to the Saints are all on the other side of the bracket. Forward Anthony Johnson and point guard Derek Needham propelled Fairfield to second place in the conference, while third-seeded Iona is the league's surprise team and sixth-seeded Niagara underachieved in the regular season but is the only team to beat Siena.

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