En route to a 26-7 record and a MAAC conference championship, the Saints played an ambitious early-season schedule. When Siena dropped a 79-66 decision Dec. 17 to then-No. 3 Pittsburgh, it dropped its record to 5-4. Of those four losses, three came at the hands of teams that would go on to appear in the NCAA Tournament: Tennessee, Oklahoma State and Pitt.
It was a schedule that has paid dividends all season long, head coach Fran McCaffery said.
"It helps you understand how to win on the road and then it helps you play in front of big, hostile environments, which this very well could be (Friday) night," he said. "There's going to be a lot of Ohio State fans, so it could be a lot different than it was last year playing Vanderbilt in Florida (in the first round of the NCAA Tournament)."
Those three losses this season came by an average of 12.0 points, and there was at least one constant in all three: poor three-point shooting.
The Saints do not shoot at a high percentage from deep, nor do they shoot an abnormal number of them. For the year, Siena hit on 33.5 percent of its three-pointers, but only 25.3 of the shots taken from the floor were from deep.
In the aforementioned three losses, the Saints were a combined 9 for 52 (17.3 percent) from beyond the three-point arc. Although they primarily like to push the ball up the court and create quick baskets, an inability to hit three-pointers can be crippling to Siena's offensive attack.
"We definitely have great shooters, not only the guys that start but guys that come off the bench like Clarence Jackson and Kyle Downey," Siena point guard Ronald Moore said. "I think making shots will be key for us."
OSU head coach Thad Matta likened the Saints to the Massachusetts team the Buckeyes defeated in last year's NIT championship. Then, the Minutemen liked to try and score as quickly and often as possible and their 85 points, 32 field goals made and 87 attempts represented season-high totals for OSU opponents.
"They've got so many different guys that can hurt you in so many different ways," he said. "They want to get the ball up the floor and they're very good at it."
That sentiment is backed up by Siena's 2009 postseason media guide. The front cover boasts action photos of seven players with the headline "Pick Your Poison."
The Saints are led by senior captain Kenny Hasbrouck and his team-leading 14.8 points per game, but the cog who makes the offensive engine run is Moore. The 6-0, 160-pound athlete was compared by Matta to Big Ten player of the year Kalin Lucas from Michigan State.
For the season, the 6-0, 160-pound Moore averaged 6.3 assists per game and had a 2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio. He only had more turnovers than assists once during the season, and it was in the loss to the Volunteers.
As he has prepared for the Buckeyes, Moore said he has watched film of how Lucas attacked their defense. In three games against OSU this season, Lucas averaged 19.0 points but had just six assists against four turnovers.
"He definitely likes to find gaps and attack and make them pay for running out on the shooters, which Ohio State likes to do," Moore said. "That's something we've picked up on from watching film. I'm definitely going to try to hit the gaps and draw guys and find the open guy."
Both teams feel confident that they can control the tempo and subsequently the game.
"Their style fits into our hands: tough twos, and that's what we want to try to make them shoot," OSU junior guard P.J. Hill said.
Even if the Saints are able to control the tempo, however, Matta said he would be fine with the Buckeyes exceeding their average of 66.7 points per game.
"I always want to average 85 points a game," he said. "I think that would be the ideal world for me as a coach."