Monday, June 9, 2014

Team Report: Saint Peter's Men Should Be Better

Here's another in the "Team Report" series looking back at the 2013-14 season and taking a crystal-ball look at what might be ahead for conference programs.

Up now ...


2013-14 RECORD: 9-11 in MAAC play, tied for sixth; 14-17 overall.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: The season, as a whole, was another step forward. The overall record was the best since the program won the MAAC's post-season tournament in 2010-11, finishing 5-26 and 9-21 in the two previous years before this past one. Things didn't start well, though, as the Peacocks got off to a 2-6 start before what was a season-turning, gut-check victory over Seton Hall. It was Saint Peter's first win in the annual series with its higher-level, in-state rival since 1995. The Peacocks were better after that, but there were also ups and downs. The season, though, ended on a definite upswing with four wins in a row to close out regular-season play and, then, a first-round 65-62 decision over Fairfield in the MAAC tournament. In that game, junior guard Desi Washington drained a three-pointer from the right side to secure the outcome, and no one can blame the Stags for having a bit of a dislike for Washington. The game-winning trey was the third time during the season his last-second three-pointer, from just about the same spot on the floor, won games against Fairfield. Washington continued to build a nice career as a good-shooting scoring guard (13.5 points per game, 3.1 rebounds). This past year, though, he got a lot of help from Rutgers' transfer 6-7 junior forward Marvin Dominique (16.6, 8.9), who became one of the conference's best front-court players. There was also considerable support from freshmen Trevis Wyche, a 6-0 point guard (8.3 points, 3.9 assists) and 6-7 post player Quadir Welton (4.7, 5.0). Another post, sophomore reserve (2.3, 2.2) helped out as did junior guard Jamel Fields (4.4, 1.1), junior forward Kris Rolle and junior forward Tyler Gaskins. Senior Chris Burke, a swingman, provided considerable leadership, averaged 7.4 points per game and was the team's best perimeter defender. The season ended with a quarter-final loss to Manhattan in the MAAC tournament, no disgrace as Manhattan went on to win the event.

WHAT WENT WRONG: A lot of ups and downs, which was to be expected with a lineup that included two key freshmen, and two key transfers (Dominique and Rolle). There were also eight losses by eight or fewer points, most of them coming when the team was developing its chemistry. Height was an issue. No MAAC team was smaller as the Peacocks' tallest player is only 6-7. Still, the team actually outrebounded opponents by a slight amount. But the size difference was more pronounced on the other end as the team was without a true rim protector. There also wasn't a consistent third scoring option. Wyche averaged 8.3 points and Burke averaged 7.4, but neither was regularly capable of providing the third option any good team usually needs.

WHAT'S AHEAD: The late surge indicated the chemistry truly developed and, maybe, better things are ahead. Washington and Dominique both return as tested senior veterans and combine as one of the better inside-outside duos in the MAAC. Wyche also returns after a season under fire as a college freshman point guard, and he improved as the season progressed. And Welton, another freshman, should be better after a season of banging heads inside with older and more-mature opponents. Fields adds another veteran presence off the bench. In all, eight members of the playing group return, and teams with veterans usually do well at this level. Rolle, an undersized 6-5 forward, flashed some signs with a 4-point/5-rebound lift in just nine minutes in the MAAC tournament win over Fairfield. Gaskins and Desport are capable reserves. Burke will be a loss, but steady, fundamentally sound swingman Chazz Patterson, who redshirted last season, returns. The team signed well-regarded guard 6-4 Elisha Boone (also recruited by Hofstra) and 6-6 "stretch forward" Rodney Hawkins out of the Baltimore area.

REASONABLE EXPECTATION: It's nice to start off with a Washington-Dominique duo. Wyche and Welton should also both step up considerably. The other four returnees are all solid role players, as is the returning-from-a-redshirt Patterson. If Hawkins, or a late addition, can help out inside it would be a nice addition. The team seems to be either a solid "big," or another decent scorer away from truly being a contender in the upcoming season. But, the expectation is something like a fourth- or fifth-place finish. Plus, veteran coach John Dunne is one of the best in the league and always has his team playing hard. That type of play could cause some tournament upsets.

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