While the season has been up and down for Saint Peter’s head coach John Dunne, they know there is an opportunity to clinch a bye in the MAAC tournament in front of them.
“If we can manage to start playing a bit better, we can end up with a top 5 seed,” Dunne said. “That’s exactly what you want to do going into the tournament. We definitely have had the hardest schedule in conference up to this point, because there were so many road games that we’ve played. We have an opportunity in front of us, we have some games bunched in, we just have to deal with that.”
The Peacocks play five of their final seven games at home and their 7-6 record in conference play puts them in fourth place. Should they manage to maintain an over .500 record by the end of the regular season, there is a good chance the Peacocks will start their MAAC tournament only needing three wins to go to the NCAA tournament. That’s even through a five game losing streak that Saint Peter’s endured where they were swept by Iona and fell to Monmouth, Rider and Siena.
If the Peacocks are going to continue a run over .500 in league play they will need junior Quadir Welton to continue his progress. In MAAC play he has averaged 11.8 ppg and ranks third in rebounding with 8.2 rpg and is coming off a season-high 14 rebounds on Monday over the Bobcats.
“Early in the year, he was playing well but he was missing some bunnies around the rim, shooting poorly from the free throw line,” Dunne said. “Both of those have really improved, he’s getting a lot of shots in the paint, he’s really improved on his free throw, he gives 100 percent effort every time he gets out on the court, and he’s a very good rebounder… We’re going to continue to go through him for sure, but we’re going to need some of the other guys to make open shots.”
The Peacocks rank second best in the conference in scoring defense (67.8 ppg), which is good for top 100 in the country, but rank ninth in scoring offense in the conference (65.7 ppg). If they are going to maintain their turnaround, they will need to make better than their 41.6% field goal percentage.
“I think the schedule is a little more normal now with the exception of the makeup game, where we have Manhattan and then Quinnipiac on back-to-back nights, we’ve got to be ready physically,” Dunne said. “We have eight games to go and you work so hard all spring, summer and fall to put yourself in this position. You’ve just got to stay enthusiastic and do what you need to do as far as the effort goes, and hopefully make enough shots.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2015-16 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.