The Saint Peter’southward Peacocks were 3-half-dozen, and and so something worse happened. On December eighteen, the Peacocks
lost to Stony Brook, 64-63. They wouldn’t play a game again for almost a month.

Tardily December is commonly a slow time for higher basketball programs, but not that irksome. Saint Peter’southward had games against
Fairleigh Dickinson
Connecticut Higher
canceled due to positive COVID tests on those two teams. Their
conference schedule
was shaken upwardly, too.

Information technology stunk, only it helped. Peacocks coach Shaheen Holloway said their success all goes back to that long break over the winter holidays. “The COVID break … kind of put a perspective on things for united states how the game could be taken away from y’all at any second,” guard Daryl Banks said Thursday. “We knew when we came back, nosotros had to really lock in and really focus and purchase into what Coach was telling us. E’er since and so the season went upwardly from there.”

When the Peacocks came dorsum from that long break, they were a different team. The MAAC competition was not as strong as their non-conference schedule, where they lost games to VCU, St. John’s, and young man Sweet 16 squad Providence. (Kenpom
rated Saint Peter’s non-conference strength of schedule 57th in the state.) But the Peacocks are 18-5 since that long break. They went 14-6 in the MAAC and won three games in the briefing tournament pretty easily; the only fourth dimension they trailed later halftime was in the semifinals against Quinnipiac. Saint Peter’due south was down 31-30 at the break, then scored the get-go 9 points of the second one-half.

A 15 seed in the NCAA tournament, the Peacocks went on to
beat ii-seed Kentucky in overtime—a thrilling upset of a college bluish blood that was also an incredibly well-played and implausibly well-matched game in which neither team e’er led by more than than six. Almost equally impressive was the job the Peacocks did against Murray Land in the 2nd round. An underdog again, Saint Peter’s controlled the game almost from the jump, leading past every bit many every bit 13 en route to a disarming ten-point win. The victory over Kentucky involved a lot of luck—winning any close basketball game involves a bit of information technology. Simply the win over the Racers was just a boffo scrap of basketball. The Peacocks are skillful.

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“The COVID pause really helped us,” Holloway said at a press briefing on Th. “I know it messed a couple teams up, but it actually helped usa. … We had a risk to have a mini army camp to become ready. Since the COVID intermission this squad has been a different squad. Nosotros’ve kind of been locked in and followed the goal, and the goal was always be a defensive-first team. Early on we were trying to do some things that we couldn’t exercise, only nosotros’ve tried to get back focused.”

To call the Peacocks a defense-get-go team is underselling it. Their offense is, to put it nicely,
highly inefficient—Kenpom puts their efficiency at 240th in the country, right between UNC Greensboro and UC Riverside. Saint Peter’s leading scorer, Banks, averages 11.four points a game. They do two important things really well, though: They get a agglomeration of offensive rebounds and shoot a solid 35.1 percent on threes. They don’t shoot many threes, though—merely 30 pct of their shots from altitude, near the bottom of Segmentation I.

But their defense force—well, it rules. Despite being relatively brusque—the Peacocks don’t have a regular taller than vi-foot-8—they play incredible defense inside and out. Teams shoot just 29.v pct from three against them (16th in the country) and 44 per centum on twos (twelfth). To annul the meridian divergence, the Peacocks play a style that leads them to both force a lot of turnovers and foul a lot—only Cal State Bakersfield, a team that went 8-xix, had a higher percentage of opponents’ points come from complimentary throws this twelvemonth. (The Peacocks were not particularly lucky hither, as opponents accept shot 72.7 from the line confronting them.) “Fouling a lot” is not a disruption that seems likely to catch on elsewhere, merely it works for Saint Peter’s, every bit they have nine players who average double-digit minutes a game, and another at ix and a half per.

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“When is the last fourth dimension somebody played 12 guys double-figure minutes?” Holloway said. “I’ve been trying to do that since my offset yr. People said, ‘You can’t do that, you can’t do that.’ And everybody is doing information technology now! All the teams that’re winning have 10 guys playing double-figure minutes.”

The defense force’southward anchor is KC Ndefo, a half-dozen-foot-7 senior from New York who is the three-fourth dimension MAAC Defensive Player of the Year. He has 90 blocks this yr—ii.8 a game. He besides has 39 steals—one.i a game. Ndefo also leads the squad in defensive rebounding with 4.8 per game. He entered the transfer portal in the offseason, looking for a brighter lights under which to exercise the things he’s so skillful at, but
decided to return
in the cease. It worked out, of course.

“This is who we are,” Ndefo said. “And just being able to be on the big stage and finally show that this is what we practise and this toughness and chip on our shoulder is what we bring to the table.”

I don’t have to caption this photograph because the NCAA already did it for me. But in case y’all’re wondering, this is Doug Edert.

As befits a squad that knocked off Kentucky and kept on winning, Saint Peter’s players accept gotten a lot of attention over the last week. Holloway said most 500 people saw the Peacocks off from Bailiwick of jersey Urban center; the school just has about ii,600 undergraduates. Doug Edert, who had 13 points in their win over Murray Country, gained attention for his play and his mustache. Since higher athletes can do endorsements now, that led to a bargain for a sweatshirt sold by a Pennsylvania casino company’due south sports website and another to endorse wings from a chain restaurant. I enjoyed this commutation at the press conference betwixt Edert and longtime Associated Printing sportswriter Dan Gelston:

Doug, we saw this week your chicken wing deal, y’all accept a sweatshirt line out. Is there anything else that’s out that we haven’t seen notwithstanding?

No, zippo right now.
Have you turned down deals or opportunities?

I haven’t been really looking at information technology every bit much. Like I said, I’m focused on getting the win on Friday.
What kind of comes with your chicken wing deal? What practice you get out of that? Is there food for the team, for you lot?

With all due respect, no comment. Pitiful.

To annotation: Gelston told me afterward he did not feel disrespected by the no comment.

At that place is a adventure Saint Peter’south volition get throttled tonight. Purdue is very, very good, and their star big human, Zach Edey, is 7-foot-4. Holloway said he wasn’t able to have anyone on his team simulate Edey in practice. Purdue
already gets to the line a ton, even confronting teams less willing to send opponents there than the Peacocks. It could be a long game. But Saint Peter’south is budgeted it with the confidence of a team that has already surpassed any expectations. They already took downward two better teams. Why not another?

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“I recall that everybody on our team has a chip on their shoulder, specially our coach, too,” Edert said. “We’re all looking to show ourselves, prove ourselves as a plan, as a basketball game team … the chip on our shoulder is just getting bigger and bigger. We’re withal trying to prove ourselves. We’re not satisfied with anything right now.”