KC Ndefo, Ndefo, Saint Peter's
KC Ndefo, No. 11 (Photo courtesy of Saint Peter's Athletics)

Saint Peter's MBB Preview: Peacocks continue rise in MAAC

After Saint Peter's dropped their MAAC Tournament matchup against Fairfield, I asked head coach Shaheen Holloway about where his team stood after his third season at the helm of the Peacocks.

"When you're building something like we are at Saint Peter's, it's steps," said Holloway. "I think where we are right now is way ahead of where I thought we would be in the first three years, and that's a credit to those guys. We are building, and the goal is to keep building and don't stop and try to be at the top of the standings every year."

Heading into Year 4 under the former Seton Hall point guard at the helm and Saint Peter's continue their build into one of the best teams in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The Peacocks were picked to finish second in the conference in the MAAC Preseason Coaches Poll. Every season under Holloway, the Peacocks preseason ranking continues to go up as the team's story adds chapters.

KC Ndefo Leads Stingy Defense

Leading the way for Saint Peter's is the MAAC Preseason Player of the Year KC Ndefo. Ndefo, the reigning two-time MAAC Defensive Player of the Year, has become a complete basketball player during his time at Saint Peter's. The 6'7" senior forward has improved his scoring and rebounding in every season in Jersey City, culminating with a 13.7 scoring average and 6.5 rebounds during the 2020-2021 season.

But Ndefo's calling card is on the defensive end. He blocked 91 shots last season, a program single-season record, and led the nation in blocked shots. He is also the only player in Saint Peter's history to compile 100 blocks and 100 steals in his career. Ndefo led a defense that allowed just 61 points a game, good for ninth in the nation, and held their opponent to under 38 percent shooting from the field, good for third in the country.

Jekyll and Hyde Offense

On the offensive end, the Peacocks may have their work cut out for them. Throughout last season, there were times where you had one of the best offenses in the MAAC. In other circumstances, such as the MAAC semifinal matchup, the offense stagnates and scoring buckets becomes a challenge. Besides Ndefo, whose offensive game is still developing, Daryl Banks III and Doug Edert are the best offensive options for Saint Peters, averaging 11 and eight points, respectively.

The one player that will be leaned upon more this season will be junior guard Matthew Lee. The best passer on the team, Lee will need to shoot more and take pressure off Banks III and Edert, who teams will focus on most on the floor. Fousseyni and Hassan Drame will also be relied on to increase their scoring output to help round out bench scoring. After scoring 13 points against NJCU in an exhibition game, freshman Jaylen Murray could be a wild card for the Peacocks to get more points from the defensive bench.

Rotation Questions

The question remains whether Holloway can nail down a constant rotation for the team. He has stressed during his time with the Peacocks his willingness not to have a set starting five or rotation. Holloway goes with his gut on a particular night based on the opponent, matchup, and who is playing well. The problem with not having set minutes is that it doesn't give the team much consistency. The idea is to throw bodies at teams and wear them down as there are fresh players the entire game. With that said, however, who will Holloway play in the final four minutes of a close game consistently?

While Rick Pitino's Iona Gaels are the story after last year's MAAC Tournament title run, Saint Peter's is a team that continues to get better and better year after year. The question remains whether the Peacocks can withstand the pressure and attention they are starting to receive and stay the course. Saint Peter's having Holloway as head coach is probably the best thing for this team as he knows about pressure after playing in the Big East. Locally everyone knows about the Saint Peter's Peacocks. The rest of the nation is starting to know the name.