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Saint Peter’s will have to battle against Kentucky for first-ever tournament win

With one of the nation's most consistent defense’s, the No. 15 Peacocks will first have to go through the Wildcats to make a run in March

NCAA Basketball: Metro Atlantic Conference Tournament-Saint Peters vs Monmouth
Doug Edert’s 3-point shooting is one of the reasons Saint Peter’s won the MAAC. He was 41% from deep this year.
Thomas Salus-USA TODAY Sports

Where to Watch

Location: Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana

Tip Time: 7:10 p.m. EST

Television/Streaming: CBS/March Madness Live

DraftKings Line: Kentucky -18, O/U 132

Peacock Preview

In search of the program’s first-ever NCAA tournament victory, Saint Peter’s has some very interesting pieces that will make it tough for the MAAC’s representative to be laughed off by those looking at this 2 vs 15 matchup.

This will include KC Ndefo, the three-time MAAC Defensive Player of the Year, who will give Kentucky some trouble inside, and Doug Edert, who shot 41% from three on the season and is coming off a 20-point performance in the MAAC championship game.

But players like Daryl Banks III, the team’s leading scorer, who together with Matthew Lee combines for a dynamic guard duo, and Fousseyni Drame, a 6-foot-7-inch junior from Mali, who leads the Peacocks in rebounding, are big reasons why the Peacocks are on the big stage.

With a set of players like that, between a defensive big man who can be a threat in the post, one of the nation’s best three-point shooters, a set of effective guards and a young, driven head coach in Shaheen Holloway, Saint Peter’s has the pieces to make a run in March and to potentially repeat what Oral Roberts did as a 15 seed last season.

It will take a lot to do so against Kentucky as the Peacocks will need to find a way to shut down Oscar Tshiebwe, Kellan Grady, and TyTy Washington, but Saint Peter’s bolsters one of the nation’s top-scoring defenses allowing just 68.1 PPG while sitting top-35 in total blocks on the season.

But despite the success they’ve managed on the defensive side of the ball, the Peacocks don’t dominate offensively and will need contributions from their leading scorer in Banks. He struggled throughout the later rounds of the MAAC Tournament. They will also need big nights from Ndefo, Edert and more to compete with one of the SEC’s best.

Predictions

Unfortunately for Saint Peter’s, 15 seeds are just 9-135 all-time against No. 2 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. But remember, two 15 seeds won in 2012, and they picked up one win in each of 2013, 2016 and 2021.

The Peacocks will need every ounce of defensive strength and offensive craftiness they used throughout the season if they’re to give the Wildcats a back-and-forth battle. Don’t count Holloway’s squad out. While the Peacocks will be able to frustrate and limit Kentucky with scrappy defense, they just don’t have the offensive firepower to match the scoring ability of Kentucky’s players.

Ultimately, the Wildcats are the safe pick here against Saint Peter’s and should manage a win without many issues tonight.