This season, much has changed for the Saints. Fran McCaffery has been replaced by Mitch Buonaguro and the three stars have graduated. Clarence Jackson and Ryan Rossiter are the go-to guys and team leaders. The point guard position is the one with the biggest question mark. Kyle Griffin started the first two games, but gave way to freshman Rakeem Brookins in game three.
So the Saints went into their second game of the season (@ Minnesota) with question marks at the point and searching for a new identity. They got off to a hot shooting start early (and by they I mean Clarence Jackson), but cooled off by the middle of the first half. Ultimately, the Saints lost 76-69. The problem for the Saints? Lots and lots of turnovers.
After the game, Coach Buonaguro said:
“It really came down to us turning the ball over,” Buonaguro continued. “I thought we outplayed Minnesota in a lot of areas, but the turnover battle was 24-15 (for Minnesota). You can’t win on 24 turnovers on the road. It’s impossible.”
Impossible is a strong word. I decided to further investigate Buonaguro's claim. Of course, winning with 24 turnovers on the road is not common by any stretch, but not impossible either. In fact, Coach Buonaguro should be very familiar with one game from last year when his claim was proven false. The 2009-2010 Siena Saints defeated Tennessee State on the road despite a ridiculous 29 turnovers. Buonaguro was an assistant coach last season.
The four factors tell the whole story. Despite 29 turnovers, this game wasn't even close. The final score was 85-69. Turnovers are certainly important (and most of the time underrated), but in this case Siena had enough talent to overcome them. Buonaguro's quote is not valid. An added stipulation might have made more sense: "You can’t win on 24 turnovers on the road against a Big Ten team." That could be something to look further into in the future.