Casey Ryder, Staff Writer |
Every year the NCAA men’s basketball tournament or as most people call it, “March Madness,” is filled with upsets, drama, and incredible storylines that no one could’ve foreseen. This year was no exception. However, there was one team that became the underdogs of the tournament with their historic Cinderella run: 15 seed St Peter’s Peacocks.
St Peter’s University is a private Jesuit university located in Jersey City, NJ with an undergraduate student body of 2,134. To put that into perspective, that’s about one-third the size of SUNY Oneonta!
As for the men’s basketball team, they play in a small Division I conference called the MAAC and after finishing the regular season in second place, the team booked their ticket to the big dance on Mar. 12 after a 60-54 victory over Monmouth in the conference championship.
Then on Selection Sunday, the team was slated to face nationally-ranked Kentucky in the first round. This was supposed to be a formality. The Wildcats came into the tournament ranked fifth in the nation with a record of 26-7 overall. On top of that, sports betting website FanDuel had the Peacocks as a +1400 favorite heading into the encounter.
But as anyone who follows March Madness knows, anything can happen and when the game tipped off, they proved to everyone watching that they belonged. They went in at halftime tied at 37 thanks in large part to the play of Junior guard Daryl Banks III who had 16 of the team’s points.
In the second half, the team continued to hang around with Junior guard Doug Edert impressing. Edert, who has garnered the nickname “Dougie Buckets,” put up 15 points in the second half which included a runner that tied the game at 71 and sent it to overtime.
In overtime after both teams went back and forth trading buckets, Saint Peter’s guard Matthew Lee scored two three throws to put the team up 4 with 20 seconds remaining. Those three throws all but put the game to bed and in the end, the game finished 85-79 with Saint Peter’s shocking the basketball world.
But one man who wasn’t shocked was St Peter’s Head Coach Shaheen Holloway who said after the game, “This is something that these guys understand, no disrespect to anybody, but we wasn’t coming down here just to lose. We came down here to fight and we did.”
The next game for the Peacocks was seven-seed Murray State who had beaten San Francisco in overtime in the previous round. While the team wasn’t up against a basketball powerhouse like Kentucky, they were still underdogs heading in. However, the team managed to pull another upset winning the game 70-60 with Senior forward KC Ndefo putting up a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. With the victory, the team advanced to the Sweet 16 to face number three seed Perdue and became just the third 15 seed ever to advance to the second weekend of the tournament.
Given Perdue’s status of being ranked 13 in the nation heading into the tournament and being one of the top teams in the Big Ten conference, they were heavy favorites going in. But the Peacocks weren’t done yet.
St Peter’s managed to compete in the first half and only trailed by four at the break. In the second half, they outscored the Boilermakers 38-31 to win the game 67-64 and pull off another dramatic upset. The victory cements their legacy in tournament history in that it made them the first 15 seed to ever advance to the Elite Eight.
This past Sunday, Mar. 27, they met eight seed and basketball powerhouse North Carolina in the Elite Eight, and unfortunately for them and the many neutrals around the country who began their fans, this is where the run came to an end. They lost 69-49 and were thoroughly dominated.
Despite this tough result, nothing can take away the phenomenal achievement that this run was for St. Peter’s. They represented a university that almost nobody had heard of prior to the start of the tournament and made themselves a household name and ultimately, that is the beauty of March!