Wednesday, February 29, 2012

First-Round Men's Match: Marist vs. Saint Peter's

Here's another in the series previewing teams and games for the upcoming MAAC men's tournament.

SAINT PETER'S (No. 9 seed) vs MARIST (No. 8)
Friday, 7:30 p.m.

WHAT MARIST HAS: Momentum with six wins in its last eight games, and the losses coming by 9 against Iona and by 11 against Fairfield. Suddenly a youthful Marist team has begun maturing. The future is bright, but the future might have started a little earlier than expected for the Red Foxes. Much is in place, including an above-average big man in 6-9 Adam Kemp (8.6 points, 7.3 rebounds), a good-scoring small forward/slasher in Chavaughn Lewis (13.9 ppg.) and two guards who both value ball protection. Devin Price, who also averages 13.9 points, has more assists than turnovers and Isaiah Morton only has four more turnovers than assists, good work by a frosh point guard.

WHAT SAINT PETER'S HAS: A little left over from last year's tournament championship team, including bruising post player Darius Conley (11.3 points, 7.1 rebounds), a superb defender; and swingman Yvon Raymond (7.8, 4.0). Although both played extensively a year ago, Conley was a role player in the championship run and Raymond was a reserve. Still, there's certainly a lot of pride in the program, particularly on the defensive end. The few times the Peacocks have given a full 40 minutes of intelligent play they have one well. There's also some perimeter scoring, most notably from guards Chris Prescott and freshman Lamin Fulton, but not consistent enough.

WHAT MARIST DOESN'T HAVE: Experience. Two freshmen (Lewis, Morton) and a sophomore (Kemp, who only played 16 games as a frosh) make up three of the top four players. There's also not a lot of inside help for Kemp.

WHAT SAINT PETER'S DOESN'T HAVE: Two key forwards, Jack Hill and Karee Ferguson, both expected to get a lot of time this season and both hurt early and lost for the season. It has left the team lacking much inside other than Conley, and short on depth. Also, the prime decision-maker, Fulton, is a freshman and is being asked to score more than he was accustomed to on the high school level.

HOW MARIST CAN WIN: The Red Foxes appear to be the team most likely to do some damage out of the play-in round portion of the bracket, as the 6-2 record of late attests. Teams aspire to be at their best right now, and that's where Marist is. They have enough pieces in place to challenge just about any team in the MAAC. It's just that the pieces remain young. Give them some experience, and physical maturity and the future looks bright.

HOW SAINT PETER'S CAN WIN: Play like it did a year ago ... bruising, physical defense since fewer fouls seem to get called at tournament time. Even then, though, one wonders if the Peacocks have anywhere near enough firepower to even think about duplicating last year's run in this event. Saint Peter's is capable of winning a game, but probably won't advance too far this year. But, with a relatively youthful roster, good things are ahead for the program.

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