Where to Watch
Location: Wells Fargo Arena, Philadelphia
Tip Time: 5:05 p.m. EST
Television/Streaming: CBS/March Madness Live
DraftKings Betting Line: North Carolina -8, O/U 137
The clock hasn’t struck midnight for the Saint Peter’s Peacocks yet.
A run unlike any other, the 15th-seeded Peacocks are first seed lower than 12 ever to make the Elite Eight. Their reward? The North Carolina Tar Heels.
The key in this run for Saint Peter’s has been winning close games. In their three Tournament games, the Peacocks haven’t faced a deficit of more than six points and led the entire way against Murray State. The ability to maintain a high level of performance for a full 40 minutes has given St. Peter’s the opportunity to win games, and it’ll be key to keep their Cinderella run going.
The Peacocks had their worst shooting performance of the Tournament against Purdue on Friday and shot just under 39% from the field and 29% from three. It’ll be important to see if they can find their way to the free throw line, a place they’ve been very successful. In the wins over Purdue and Kentucky, the Peacocks shot over 85% from the free throw line. They matched their season best with a 91% performance at the line against Boilermakers.
Everyone has heard of Doug Edert by now, the guard who has stolen the headlines during this St. Peter’s run, but it’ll be KC Ndefo who will serve as the x-factor for the Peacocks today. He has been real quiet in the Tournament. On Friday, Purdue managed 36 points in the paint, so the Peacocks will need to battle down low.
Ndefo, the three-time MAAC Defensive Player of the Year, is number two on the team in scoring, rebounding and assisting, but he ran into foul trouble against both Purdue and Kentucky. The Peacocks are going to need the big man to help size up to North Carolina’s 6-foot-10-inch Armando Bacot.
This is a North Carolina team that has played in its fair share of emotional games. In the round of 32 game against top-seeded Baylor, the Tar Heels blew a 25-point lead only to pull it out in overtime. Against UCLA, they shot 41% from the field and 32% from behind the arc.
St. Peter’s has proven everybody wrong this March. It is the first 15 seed to make it to the Elite Eight and the first MAAC team ever to make it out of the first weekend. I’d be a coward to pick against the Peacocks, especially with what they’ve done already and the fact that they’re playing so close to home in Philadelphia.
If Ndefo can do what he did all season long, it’ll be much harder for UNC to pack it in the paint and score inside. The Peacocks have played nearly perfect for three straight games, and this is their chance to keep on dancing. The clock hasn’t struck midnight yet, and it won’t happen today as St. Peter’s continues its historic run into the Final Four with a 72-68 win over North Carolina.