St. Peter’s: An Improbable March Run

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Michael Henry, staff writer

As Doug Edert stepped up to the free-throw line with just 7.4 seconds left on the clock, a St. Peter’s victory was in reach. After knocking down both shots, the lead was extended to 6. Just one defensive possession later, and the Peacocks had pulled off the impossible.

Coming into the game, 15 seeded St. Peters was an 18 point underdog to the 2 seeded Kentucky Wildcats. The prospect of an upset went undiscussed.

With 2 McDonald’s all-Americans, 4 incoming 5-star players, and plenty of returning talent, the Wildcats were set to demolish a small and under-recruited St. Peter’s. Right from the tip, the Peacocks played scrappy grabbing loose balls. As time ran down they stayed close hitting big threes and shutting off Kentucky’s offense with a 3-2 zone. After sending the game to overtime, St. Peter’s hit some big shots and won, cementing one of biggest upsets ever.

The underdog story stayed true for St. Peter’s next two matchups against Murray State and Purdue. In both games, the Peacocks were undersized but fought hard and played fundamental basketball, scoring many easy baskets off back-door looks. They managed to win both games and sent a 15-seed to the elite eight for the first time ever.

Of course, the dream ended with a defining 69 – 49 loss to North Carolina, in a game that highlighted key differences between the Cinderella St. Peter’s and the other teams in the Sweet Sixteen.

Coming into these games, physical size and skill was not the only area in which St. Peter’s seemed outmatched. At their home court, St. Peter’s was used to playing in front of a few thousand fans. Other teams, like Kentucky and Purdue, were used to stadiums filled with tens of thousands of loud fans, just like in the tournament.

Additionally, St. Peter’s competition throughout the regular season isn’t always strong. Previous Athletic Director, and current Seton Hall Athletic Director Bryan Felt, said “we would at least play a big school three to four times a year.” These games are often spaced out leaving St. Peter’s facing alien competition in the tournament.

Another large difference between St. Peter’s and these other programs are the basketball budget. While Kentucky has a whopping 18.3 million dollars to spend each year and Purdue had 8.3 million, St. Peter’s had just 1.6 million. The astonishing difference enabled the larger programs to invest more in the players and help the team succeed.

A final contrast between the blue-blood programs and St. Peter’s is recruitment.

Former AD Felt said, “we would get some international kids, but the majority of kids that were at St. Peter’s were fairly New Jersey, New York City kids.”

Larger programs like the ones faced in the tournament gather the best players across the country stacking their roster full of three, four, and five-star players.

With a run this improbable, the Peacocks have been recognized on a national level in front of millions of new fans.

Felt said, “You really can’t put a price or anything on it. That’s how invaluable it is. It’s just so difficult for a school that size to get that kind of attention or to get that kind of publicity really.”

This new attention is expected to drive up admission rates and help the school out tremendously.

The Peacocks’ crazy run might have come to end in the elite eight, but the impact of their journey will be felt forever.