Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Tournament Men's Preview: Saint Peter's vs. Fairfield

Here's another in the series previewing the MAAC men's basketball tournament.

No. 7 SEED SAINT PETER's vs. No. 10 SEED FAIRFIELD, 7 p.m.

TEAM RECORDS: Saint Peter's is 9-11 in MAAC play, 13-16 overall; Fairfield is 4-16 in MAAC play, 7-24 overall. Saint Peter's won both regular-season meetigs by scores of 56-55 and 63-62.

WHAT SAINT PETER'S HAS: As always, quality defense, holding all opponents to an average of 65.8 points per game, 68th-best nationally. The team, that includes three starters and the top reserve playing for the Peacocks for the first time this season, took some time to mesh but have done so of late, entering on a four-game winning streak and a 6-1 mark in their last seven games. During the season Saint Peter's has quality victories over Seton Hall and Quinnipiac. Marvin Dominique, a 6-7 forward and transfer from Fordham, averages 16.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game and has been in double figures for points in all but two games all season (one of those vs. Fairfield). Junior guard Desi Washington (13.6 ppg.) is also a dangerous scorer and freshman guard Trevis Wyche has been effective as the team's point guard.

WHAT FAIRFIELD HAS: A lot of young talent, but that's also the downside ... its youth. The Stags lost its three starting perimeter players to graduation after last year and the replacements have been two sophomores and a freshman. The team's lone senior, though, is a good one. Maurice Barrow, a 6-5 senior forward, comes off the bench to average 14.0 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, and is a serious candidate to be the league's Sixth Player of the Year award winner. Amadou Sidibe, at 6-8, is a solid presence inside and a rugged rebounder. He is believed to be the first sophomore in MAAC history to be named a team captain.

WHAT SAINT PETER'S DOESN'T HAVE: Overwhelming height. Its two inside players are both only 6-7, so the team faces a noticeable height disadvantage just about every game. Still, the Peacocks operate only at a rebound-disadvantage per game. There's also still some inexperience as Saint Peter's starts two freshmen. And, there have been issues in terms of ball care as the team's assist-to-turnover ratio is only 287th of 343 Division I teams nationally.

WHAT FAIRFIELD DOESN'T HAVE: One word: experience. And, at this level where very few players are finished products, the best teams are those who have veterans who have developed over several years. Fairfield might have the youngest starting five in MAAC history with a freshman and four sophomores expected to start against Saint Peter's. The Stags make the typical mistakes of youth, committing more fouls than all but one team nationally, getting fewer steals than all but four teams nationally, and making shots at a field-goal percentage rate that is better than only eight teams nationally.

COMMENTS: Saint Peter's is the more-experienced team, and certainly has the momentum of late-season play on its side. But, games are often decided by matchups, and Fairfield, if this season's history is any indication, is a tough match for the Peacocks. Both regular-season meetings went in Saint Peter's favor, but both by just a single point. The Peacocks needed a late-game 12-2 run to win the most-recent meeting that included a game-winning shot by Washington with two seconds remaining.

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