Eckel: The St. Peter's Peacocks look good on paper but it's hard to bet against the Iona Gaels in the MAAC, plus Siena vs Manhattan
St. Peter’s (-2.5) vs. Iona, 9:30 p.m.
There are two ways to look at Wednesday night’s late quarterfinal match-up between second-seed St. Peter’s and seventh-seed Iona.
St. Peter’s (17-12) earned that No. 2 seed with a fine regular season and is well rested as it awaits an Iona team it beat twice this season, including less than a week ago in the season finale for both schools. Iona (12-16) had one of its worst seasons in years and played a tough game Tuesday night before pulling away late to beat Canisius.
If you buy into the theory above the small 2.5-point spread should be easy to cover.
Here’s the other side of the coin. Iona has dominated the MAAC Tournament for years. The Gaels have won the MAAC four straight years and five times in the last seven years. Their 12 MAAC titles are more than twice as many as any other school’s. Their 56 tournament game wins are 21 more than any other team (St. Peter’s is second) and their .683 winning percentage in the tournament is also the best of any current school in the conference.
As one long-time MAAC follower told me Wednesday morning, “That team just knows how to win in the tournament.’’
Iona has faced St. Peter’s 11 times in the tournament and is 8-3 in those games. Oh, and those two Peacock wins this season were by just one and three points.
The Pick: You just can’t bet against Iona this early in the tournament. Take the points.
Bonus Pick: Take Siena -6 over Manhattan in the first quarterfinal game at 7 p.m.