We've heard an unusual amount of chirping from a 14 seed before this game. Player Nick Leon famously said, "I would be more worried about them matching up against us," in regards to not knowing much about Purdue. I can respect that. If you're going to pull an upset you have to believe that you can win, and this guy is taking that first step. Of course, this is from the same article where their coach said he spent a year in the Big Ten...
... at Western Michigan...
... where they happened to play Purdue. I have heard of a lot of expansion names thrown around, but Western Michigan was never one of them. One game against one Big Ten team is not "spending a year in the Big Ten". We just did that, and that is one reason I think we're going to have success in this tournament.
Part of the reason for our recent struggles is that everyone in the conference had seen us multiple times by the end of the season. There was familiarity with our offense and our defense. That familiarity is now gone, and our defense is not something I would want a short time to prepare for. If I were Leon, I would definitely worry about matching up with us.
St. Peter's Peacocks
2010-11 Record: 20-13, 11-7 MAAC (Won MAAC Tournament)
2009-10 Record: 16-14, 11-7
Postseason Result: None
Blog Representation: None (and I tried to find one for three days, the closest is here)
Series With Purdue: First Meeting
NCAA Tournament Record: 0-2 in two appearances (1991, 1995)
Time & TV: 7:20pm on TNT
There has been a lot of gnashing of teeth about this year's tournament in regards to who was snubbed and how the seeds were messed up, as if the exclusion of Colorado got rid of a slam dunk Final Four team. One of the minor quibbles was having St. Peter's as a 14 seed. Most had them projected as a 15 seed at best, with the possibility of playing in one of those new play-in games there too. In the eyes of many, we got an opening 2/15 matchup without being a two seed. St. Peter's was expcting to play a 1 or a 2 seed, so they were pretty surprised to be seeing us.
In looking at St. Peter's schedule very little stands out. They beat Alabama 50-49 in the Paradise Jam, but their next best wins are Fairfield and Iona. They lost their only game against an NCAA tournament team 59-52 in November against Old Dominion, also in the Paradise Jam. They did earn a season sweep of Siena in conference play, but the Saints were a vastly different team than the one we beat last year.
Statistically, I do not see how they stack up against us. They rank 316th nationally in scoring, 295th in assists, and 308th in field goal percentage. They barely hit 40% of their shots from the field, and that is without playing against a defense like ours.
Wesley Jenkins leads them in scoring at 12.6 point per game. He is a 6'2" senior guard that is viewing this tournament appearance as a lifetime achievement award of sorts. He rebounds very well for his size with about five per game. Jeron Belin is a 6'6" senior forward that averages 11.6 per game and 5.3 rebounds. The confident Nick Leon averages 10.6 per game and is a decent distributor as a senior point guard at 3.1 assists per game. Ryan Bacon rounds out a quartet of double-figures scorers at a 6'7" senior forward that averages 10 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
This is a team that is very long on experience. These four seniors have worked hard in their careers, going 6-24 as freshmen, 11-19 as sophomores, 16-14 as juniors, and finally 20-13 as seniors with an NCAA Tournament berth. They are a testament to their coach, who has built this program up from basically nothing.
Coach Dunne would fit in at Purdue because he teaches a defense first philosophy. They are going to need it on Friday too, because this is a low scoring team that we should be able to slow down even more. Jenkins is a decent 3-point shooter at 41.7%, while Leon hits about a third of his attempts from long range. These two will have to hit at that pace or better to pull the upset.
The biggest mismatch will be on the interior. These guys do not have anyone even close to JaJuan Johnson in size or ability. JJ has been settling for a lot of jumpers lately (part of the reason we have been struggling), but he won't be going against a Draymond Green or Melsahn Basabe in this one. JJ should be able to do what he wants, when he wants to do it.
On the perimeter Jenkins and Leon will have to make headway against E`Twaun Moore, Lewis Jackson, and Kelsey Barlow. For good measure we can then spell them with Ryne Smith and Terone Johnson. We simply have more athletes to throw at them defensively, and that will likely frustrate them as the game goes on.
These games become mismatches late because of the differences in talent. Their starters can probably hang around for awhile, but they do not have the talent at the seventh, eighth, and ninth spots off the bench that we do. Even if we didn't have JJ and Smooge this would still likely be a mismatch. Steven Samuels and Darius Conley are their fifth and sixth options, but the numbers drop off drastically after them.
For the first time in probably 13 years, when we were a two seed in 1998, we have a distinct advantage over our first round opponent to the point where a Purdue loss would be an absolute shock to everyone. It is not meant as a diss to St. Peter's, who has accomplished a lot after being one of the worst Division I teams a few years ago. We're simply light years better. We have won at least one NCAA game in our last 12 appearances (The longest active streak) and I don't see any reason it shouldn't be 13.
St. Peter's does regularly hold its opponents in the low 60's, but they haven't faced offensive threats like JJ and E'Twaun. Even if they do hold us to say 62 points, can they score 63 against our defense? I am going to say, not likely.
I would be greatly encouraged if we went out and played a game like I know this team is capable of playing. Our offensive flow has been off for two consecutive games. We have settled for too many jump shots, they haven't been falling, and instead of running our offense and trying to get to the basket we have decided to stagnate and shoot more jumpers. The second half against Michigan State prevented us from gaining any kind of flow whatsoever because even the slightest thought of contact from either team resulted in a foul being called. Playing a team like a St. Peter's is what we need because it will allow us to get back into the flow and gain some confidence.
This should be an easy win, and we should be very, very concerned if it is not.