By: Gus Wilson
Every year in the National Conference Athletic Association (NCAA) Division One basketball tournament known as March Madness, unforgettable moments are made. Whether it’s a highlight play, buzzer-beater, major upset, or one of the lower seeds making a deep run, March Madness has never failed to disappoint. This year, we have witnessed one of the greatest Cinderella stories in the history of the tournament in the St. Peter’s University Peacocks from Jersey City, New Jersey.
The Peacocks finished the regular season as the champions of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, beating Monmouth in the championship game. Since they won their conference, they earned an automatic spot in the NCAA tournament. The Peacocks were revealed to be the 15th seed in the east and set to face one of the most renowned college basketball programs of all time, the University of Kentucky Wildcats, one of the “blue bloods” universities along with the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Duke University, Kansas University, Villanova University, and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Kentucky was seen as one of the favorites to win the tournament, as shown by Vegas odds and brackets made all across the country.
The whole world counted out St. Peters except for themselves. At the end of the first half in the Round of 64 matchups, the game was all tied up, having people all over the world wanting to tune into the second half. The game went back and forth until the end, when St. Peters pulled off one of the largest upsets of all time, knocking off the Wildcats in the first round of March Madness. While Daryl Banks III led the Peacocks in scoring, Doug Edert off the bench for the Peacocks was crucial in the victory and became a fan favorite. Edert had 20 points on 5-7 shooting from the field and made both of his threes. When comparing the University of Kentucky and St. Peter’s University, the magnitude of the upset is put into perspective. The Wildcats’ basketball budget is 18.3 million dollars compared to the Peacocks’ 1.6 million. The gym capacity of Kentucky is 20,545 compared to the 3,200 of St. Peters, and St. Peters has 28,000 fewer students than the University of Kentucky.
As many underdogs do, St. Peter’s University stole the hearts of fans across the country and instantly became a fan favorite in the tournament. Doug Edert immediately blew up on social media and became known all over the country. The road to becoming one of the better Cinderella teams did not get any easier though, as they had to face Murray State in the Round of 32. Murray State went 30-2 in the regular season and was coming off an impressive against San Francisco. In this game, forward KC Ndefo was the star of the show with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 blocks in another upset win against the Murray State Racers. With this win, the Peacocks became only the third 15th seed to make the Sweet 16, joining Oral Roberts from a year ago and Florida Gulf Coast University in 2013. However, neither of these universities ever won their Sweet 16 matchup.
The Purdue Boilermakers were the number three seed in the East and again, one of the favorites to win the tournament. Similar to the Kentucky game, this was an offensive back and forth, with St. Peters trailing by 4 at halftime. With a great second-half surge, the Peacocks were able to keep on dancing and upset the Boilermakers. With the win, St. Peters was the first 15th seed to ever make the Elite Eight. America’s sweethearts from New Jersey had only the University of North Carolina Tar Heels in the way of making the Final Four. Sadly, the Tar Heels’ size advantage was too much to handle as Junior center Armando Bacot had 15 rebounds in the first half. The Peacocks’ dreams were crushed with a 20 point loss.
The Peacocks had no single player on their roster that was ranked coming out of high school. Head coach Shaheen Holloway was able to bring together the team to win more games in this tournament than any other college basketball fan would have expected. With reports that Holloway will return to his alma mater Seton Hall to become the next head coach, who knows if the Peacocks will be dancing next March. Whether they return to the tournament or not, their Cinderella run will be remembered by fans forever.