Monmouth guard Samuel Chaput (25) defends against Iona guard Asante Gist (3) during the second half of the championship NCAA college basketball game during the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament, Monday, March 11, 2019, in Albany, N.Y. Iona won 81-60. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)
- Defending champion Iona Gaels battle the upstart Fairfeld Stags in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference final
- The Gaels have raised the trophy in each of the past five editions of the tourney
- We’ve got you covered with all the odds and trends ahead of Saturday afternoon’s clash
The Fairfield Stags look to claim their first Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title since 1997 when they hit the court against the Iona Gaels in Saturday afternoon’s final as lengthy 8.5-point underdogs.
Pegged as the No. 7 seed, the Stags have emerged as giant slayers in this year’s edition of the tournament, blazing their trail to the final with decisive wins over No. 2 Monmouth and No. 3 Saint Peter’s. The ninth-seeded Gaels make an eighth straight appearance in the tournament final riding a five-game SU win streak, and are also unbeaten ATS during that stretch.
The 2021 MAAC Tournament final tips off at 4pm ET on Saturday afternoon at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
Iona Gaels vs Fairfield Stags Odds
|Iona Gaels||-8.5 (-110)||-400||O 131.5 (-110)|
|Fairfield Stags||+8.5 (-110)||+280||U 131.5 (-110)|
*Odds taken at FoxBet on March 13, 2021.
Fairfield Peaking at Right Time
It has been a tale of two seasons for the Stags, who opened their campaign on a dismal 2-12 run, including a 2-7 mark in their nine conference matchups. Fairfield has turned things around since, winning outright in eight of their past 12 contests, capped by victories in each of their past four outings.
FAIRFIELD BASKETBALL: Huge win for the Stags last night… finishing the tight game to the very last second with a final score of 52-47 🔜 MAAC Final! Watch below for details on that game ⤵️ @News12CT @ericlandskroner pic.twitter.com/0FjOLs3vYH
— Shosh Bedrosian (@ShoshBedrosian) March 13, 2021
The Stags needed overtime to escape with a 59-58 win over No. 10 Manhattan in first round action. But they have been dominant in their two subsequent tournament wins, routing Monmouth 79-60 in the quarterfinals before claiming a berth in Saturday afternoon’s clash with a 52-47 comeback victory over the Peacocks on Friday night.
Stags Paying Out Regularly as Underdogs
Fairfield’s current surge has defied the expectations of oddsmakers, who have tagged the Stags as betting underdogs in each of their past 17 outings. The Stags have been a particularly steady bet as big dogs, going 4-2 ATS in their past six while pegged as underdogs by seven or more points, including a pair of outright wins.
Jay Young’s team was one that nobody was talking about entering this MAAC Tournament.
But the Stags have handled business on two consecutive nights.
Extremely well coached team who can win in a multitude of ways.
Dangerous! #MAACHoops https://t.co/ImwKyvBUA7
— Andrew Robinson (@ARob_Press) March 11, 2021
A stingy defense has been key to bringing the Stags to within one win of their first berth in the NCAA Tournament in 24 years. The club has limited opponents to just 58 points per game during their 4-0 run, powering a 3-0 run for the UNDER in totals betting.
📓 | With 33 pts. 7 rebs., 5 assts. tonight, Jake Wojcik is the first @FairfieldMBB player to net 30+ since Landon Taliaferro had 34 in a win over Texas A&M.
Woj is also the first Stag with a 30/5/5 statline since a guy named @TylerNelson14 had 31/5/5 in a win over UNH in 2017. pic.twitter.com/nwgUP8xTI7
— Fairfield Stags (@FairfieldStags) March 6, 2021
Fairfield has also benefited from steady offensive contributions from across their lineup, with four Stags shooters reaching double digits in each of their past two outings. Junior guard Jake Wojcik has led the attack. The Stags’ leading scorer closed out the schedule with a spectacular 33-point performance, and has averaged 12.7 points per game so far at the tournament.
Gaels Putting Early-Season Woes behind Them
While the Stags aim to end a four-game losing streak in the MAAC Tournament final, the Gaels look to sew up a fifth straight tournament championship with a win on Saturday afternoon. After enduring a difficult regular season schedule that was limited to just nine conference games while the team battled COVID-19, the Gaels entered this year’s tournament as an uncharacteristically low seed.
Pitino’s Iona beats Niagara 70-64 in MAAC semifinalhttps://t.co/OAWe2UaMVA pic.twitter.com/bOp24CbRXC
— PIX11 News (@PIX11News) March 13, 2021
However, Iona has not played like a team that was forced to earn their way through the fist round. With the exception of their narrow 55-52 win over top-seeded Siena in quarterfinal action, the Gaels have been dominant during their current 5-0 run.
Fast starts have been key to the Gaels’ recent success. The squad has marched to wide double-digit leads at halftime in three of their five recent wins. That includes Friday’s 70-64 win over Niagara in semifinal play, with Iona putting the game out of reach by halftime, with an 18-point lead.
Iona Holds the Edge on Experience
Asante Gist has led the attack for the Gaels. The senior guard has averaged 15.3 points per game over his past four outings, and has led the team in scoring in each of their past two tournament contests. But while Iona has taken three of four from the Stags, they have struggled to run up the score in recent contests.
#GAELSWIN!!! @IonaGaelsMBB is onto the #maAChoops21 Championship Game!
Asante Gist leads the way with 19 points and 5 assists.#ICMBB | #MAACHoops | #GaelNation pic.twitter.com/rO5AKgMh7E
— Iona Athletics (@ICGaels) March 13, 2021
The Gaels dropped a 67-52 decision to Fairfield back in December, and have averaged just 66.4 points per game while going 3-2 SU and ATS in their past five meetings. Iona’s vast experience in the final gives them a clear edge. However, 8.5-points is a huge spread to cover against the rejuvenated Stags.
The Picks: Stags +8.5 (-110); UNDER 131.5 (-110)
Daniel has been writing about sports and sports betting for over 23 years. The seasoned pro has contributed to the likes of Sports Illustrated, Sportsnet, NESN, Bleacher Report, OddsShark, the Globe and Mail, and The Nation magazine.