Furman (23-11) @ St. Peter’s (21-13) CIT Semifinals Yanitelli Center (Jersey City, NJ) 9:00pm ET CBS Sports Network
It’s down to the final four remaining in the CIT, and after winning their first two tournament games on the road, John Dunne’s Saint Peter’s Peacocks of the MAAC will host Niko Medved and the Southern Conferences’ Furman Paladins. Furman, though too playing their first two tournament games on the road, hasn’t faced much resistance: as they blew out the Atlantic Sun Conference’s USC Upstate (17-16), 79-57, and made easy work of the Big South Conference’s Campbell Camels (19-18), 79-64. It hasn’t been as easy as a road for St Peter’s in some defensive struggles: having to come from behind to edge out Albany of the AEC (21-14), 59-55, and also overcoming an early 23-6 deficit to pull out the win over the Sun Belt’s Texas St. Bobcats (22-14), 49-44. The winner will go on to face Texas A&M Corpus Christi or UMBC for the CIT Championship on Friday.
It’s been quite the season for St. Peter’s under John Dunne in his 11th season, finishing with a winning record for the first time since 2011, while finishing 2nd behind Monmouth with a 14-6 conference record. The Peacocks are one of the more experienced teams in the country (35th), starting 3 seniors and 2 juniors, with SR C Quadir Welton (42nd NCAA Def Reb %) serving as the leader and go-to-guy. Defense (45th NCAA) has been the trademark for St. Peter’s this year, featuring a well-rounded one that is solid on the perimeter (32nd), forces turnovers (41st), and is very strong on the defensive glass (52nd). Their lack of height (284th), is really their only defensive weakness of which to speak, but teams have gotten points on them mostly from three (55th), which is unexpected with perimeter D being their strength. On the Peacock offense (218th) is where their lack of height shows up, as they have struggled mightily on the offensive glass (291st), and demonstrated a lack of presence inside (298th), where they only shoot a 46.7 percentage (279th). Therefore, they rely heavily on the three point shot (49th), but do shoot it at a 37.7% clip (57th), with JR SG Nick Griffin being their sharpshooter (43%, 92nd). St. Peter’s also takes good care of the ball (73rd), which could be a key consideration against a Furman defense known to come up with steals on a high rate of possessions (67th).
Niko Medved, in his 4th season, will look to complete his turnaround for this Furman team, which was 9-21 in 2014 and has gradually gotten better in each of this last 3 seasons. They finished tied atop the Southern Conference with eventual NCAA Tournament team, ETSU, at 14-4, getting a home win over the Bucs as a signature win on the season. The Paladins only start one senior, in 6’6” C Kris Acox, while also starting 3 juniors and 1 sophomore, making them the 155th most experienced team in college basketball. As one of the shorter teams in college basketball (338th), it should come as no surprise that the Paladins rely nearly exclusively on the three point shot (31st) on offense (115th), which they do shoot at a 38.2% rate (43rd). Their lack of height does create a struggle on the offensive boards (224th), and second chance opportunities have been hard to come by for Furman. In addition to rebounding, turnovers (224th) have also been their main downfall on offense, and both will be important attributes to consider up against a turnover-happy and defensive rebounding juggernaut in St. Peters. As good as Furman’s offense is on the perimeter, their defense (100th) is even better, holding teams to a 30.9% three-point percentage (14th). They are weak on the interior (225th), but this shouldn’t come into play much against the Peacocks, who like the Paladins will look to attack on the perimeter.
These teams are actually very similar in their makeup as smaller-sized three-point shooting teams that also defend the perimeter well. And it is three point shooting will obviously be huge in this matchup, and whoever can get hot from three while defending the perimeter well will likely come out victorious in the end. Furman is probably the slightly better team here if you consider their advantage on offense over St. Peter’s, but it is also important to consider St. Peter’s experience in a big game like this, for you like the juniors and seniors to get it done when it really matters and the Peacocks have a lot of them.
Opening at St. Peter’s -3 off-shore, 58% of the bets have been on the Peacocks and the line has still held steady. Only one book, 5Dimes, is showing a slight lean to the Peacocks at -3 -107 with Furman at -103, while everyone else is at -110 flat.