March basketball rolls on today, with more conference tournaments tipping off, including the MAAC Conference. One of the first-round matchups in the tournament will feature St. Peter’s taking on Fairfield, and we’ll preview the game before going over my best play for the action.
One of the teams everyone fell in love with last March Madness was the St. Peter’s Peacocks; however, this is a much different team than last year's. Losing head coach Shaheen Holloway and players like Doug Edert made the Peacocks' possible journey back to the NCAA Tournament a difficult one, which was made clear when they finished the regular season in 10th place in the conference with a 7-13 record.
The offense that captured the hearts of everyone who roots for the underdog is no longer a thing, as the Peacocks will enter the tournament ranked 335th in the country in offensive efficiency rating, according to KenPom. St. Peter’s only broke 70 points in two of their 15 MAAC games, and on the season, they shot just 38.6% from the field, the third-worst shooting percentage in the country.
When these two teams met back in December, the Peacocks only managed to score 52 points in the game as they took the loss at home with a final score of 56-52. St. Peter’s shot 28% from the field and 12% from three in the game while attempting 39 more field goal attempts than Fairfield.
Fairfield will enter the tournament after finishing in 7th place in the MAAC with a 9-11 record. The Stags don’t possess a high-powered offense either, but what sets them apart is their defense. Entering tonight, they are ranked 326th in average points scored per game while also ranking 64th in average points allowed per game. The Stags' slow tempo may hinder their offensive numbers, but at the same time, it led to them holding opponents to an average of just five made three-pointers per game.
Fairfield is currently listed at -2.5 point favorites, and I’ll be backing them for my play in this one. The Stags were 15-13-1 ATS this season, while the Peacocks were 9-16 ATS and 6-10 ATS when listed as the underdog. In the last two meetings between these two teams, Fairfield has won and covered both games, and I’m expecting that to continue tonight.
Both teams run at a very slow tempo, which makes each possession that much more important, and although it is not by much, Fairfield holds a slight advantage when it comes to shooting and scoring. The Stags rank 49 spots ahead of the Peacocks in offensive efficiency rating, according to KenPom, and were able to shoot 51% from the field when the two teams met in December.
Another significant aspect in possibly close and low-scoring tournament games like this is free throws, and Fairfield holds the advantage in that category as well. The Stags are 67th in the country in average free throw attempts per game and shoot 72% from the charity stripe this season, while the Peacocks are shooting 69% and ranked 316th in attempts per game.
Fairfield Stags (-2.5)