St. Peter’s not only hasn’t won a men’s NCAA tournament game before this year, the Peacocks had never been particularly close.
In 1991, the 3,500-student school from Jersey City made its March Madness debut with a 73-65 loss to Texas. The Peacocks’ next two trips, in 1995 and 2011, resulted in blowout defeats by UMass and Purdue, respectively. And pretty much the same was expected when St. Peter’s won this year’s MAAC tournament, got a 15 seed in the Big Dance and headed to Indianapolis to face second-seeded Kentucky in the East Region.
You know what happened on Thursday, when St. Peter’s — as somehow predicted by Deadspin’s Eric Blum — knocked off the Wildcats. And now the Peacocks are headed to Philadelphia for the Sweet 16 after taking down seventh-seeded Murray State, 70-60, on Saturday night.
When they get there for Friday’s game, the Peacocks will have some measure of home-court advantage, and be able to fit the entire student body in the arena, and then some. Next up for this year’s Cinderella will be the winner of Sunday’s game in Milwaukee between No. 3 Purdue and No. 6 Texas, with the other regional semifinalists being fourth-seeded UCLA and No. 8 North Carolina, an overtime winner over defending national champion Baylor in Fort Worth on Saturday.
The South Regional in San Antonio, starting on Thursday, also will feature a double-digit seed, although No. 11 Michigan, a 76-68 winner over No. 3 Tennessee after knocking off Colorado State on Thursday, isn’t exactly a typical low seed, having dealt with a COVID-19 outbreak in January and a slump down the stretch after coach Juwan Howard’s suspension.
Last year also featured a No. 15 seed and a No. 11 seed making the Sweet 16. In fact, a pair of No. 11s, as UCLA and Syracuse joined the true Cinderella of that tournament, Oral Roberts, not to mention No. 12 Oregon State. The two low seeds from the Pac-12 went on to the Elite Eight, and UCLA got to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed with a win over… Michigan.