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MAAC Championship Preview: In a tournament filled with upsets can Monmouth prevail?

With 2 of the top 3 seeds falling out of the MAAC Championship early, can Monmouth take advantage and find a win against Saint Peter’s?

NCAA Basketball: St. Peter’s at St. John
2022 MAAC Defensive Player of the Year KC Ndefo will be a key contributor for the Peacocks in this afternoon’s final
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

How to watch

Matchup: No. 2 Saint Peter’s vs No. 4 Monmouth

When: Saturday, 4 p.m. ET

Where: Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, NJ

TV: ESPNU

DraftKings Line: Saint Peter’s -2, O/U 124

How they got here

With two of the MAAC’s top-seeded teams in No. 1 Iona and No. 3 Siena both falling in just the quarterfinals of this year’s tournament, the bracket has been loaded with upsets but at the same time remains wide open for either the Peacocks or Hawks to capitalize.

The No. 1 Rider Broncs opened tournament weekend with a win over No. 8 Manhattan before picking up the 71-70 win over Iona in the quarterfinals while No. 7 Fairfield managed a first-round win over No. 11 Canisius and No. 11 Quinnipiac handled No. 6 Marist and MAAC Rookie of the Year Jao Ituka despite receiving the last-place seed.

Reaching the quarterfinals, the Bobcats continued rolling as they defeated Siena 77-71 to advance to the team’s first-ever MAAC semifinals followed by Saint Peter’s with a win over Fairfield and Monmouth just edging out Niagra for a matchup against Rider.

Unfortunately, both Rider and Quinnipiac’s runs would end here with a 72-68 Monmouth win over the Broncs and Saint Peter’s taking down the Bobcats 64-52 which sets up this afternoon’s Championship battle.

Led by head coach Shaheen Holloway, the Peacocks will be in search of a first NCAA tournament appearances since 2011 while the Hawks look to finally avenge the program’s 2017 disappointment with a tournament bid for the first time since 2006.

Players to Watch

KC Ndefo, Saint Peter’s - As the MAAC Defensive Player of the Year, Ndefo has played a huge role for the Peacocks throughout the early tournament rounds on both the offensive and defensive putting up 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks against Quinnipiac.

George Papas, Monmouth - Taking over last night’s game for the Hawks, George Papas has gone from a former walk-on to 2022 All-MAAC First Team recipient as the team leading scorer averaging 15.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 3 APG. Managing 20 Points and 6 rebounds to help seal the semifinal victory over Rider, look for Papas to bring some of that offensive firepower into this matchup.

Matthew Lee, Saint Peter’s - While not the Peacock’s most dynamic player or leading scorer, Lee has been a key role player for Saint Peter’s in both of the team’s opening matchups including 9 points and 2 rebounds against Fairfield and then leading the team with 14 points and 2 steals vs Quinnipiac.

Shavar Reynolds, Monmouth - Throughout the MAAC Championship, Reynolds has quietly been one of the Hawks’ best players first with 15 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists against Niagra followed by 17 points and 3 assists vs Rider. As another senior on this roster with Papas consistency will be key tonight from the New Jersey native.

Doug Edert, Saint Peter’s - Shooting 42% on the season from three-point range, Edert is one of the MAAC’s best shooters having hit over 40 from deep throughout the regular season. Shooting just a combined 3/8 in the quarter and semifinals, Edert has slightly underwhelmed but will be an important contributor as the Peacocoks look to spread the Monmouth defense.

Walker Miller, Monmouth - a grad-transfer from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he played in 65 games in four seasons, Miller joined Monmouth and in his first season has earned All-MAAC second team honors. As one of the MAAC’s top scorers averaging 14.6 PPG, the 6-foot-11 Miller can work inside but will also hit from three as he showed going 3/4 from deep against Rider.

Prediction: Saint Peter’s -2

With such a small spread I’ll take the favorite in Saint Peter’s and the two points as the Peacocks have cruised through tournament play picking up multiple double-digit wins while Monmouth have fought nothing but close battles. And despite the big win over Iona, the extreme defensive and offensive mix of guys like KC Ndefo and Daryl Banks will prove to much for the Hawks to over come in what should be a fairly close game.