Saint Peter’s University, a small Jesuit school just outside New York City in New Jersey, continued to stun the sports world Friday with a 67-64 win over Purdue University.
Saint Peter’s is only the third 15 seed in the men’s tournament history to advance to the Sweet Sixteen and the first to advance to the Elite Eight.
Purdue was a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament this year.
The lead scorer for Saint Peter’s was Daryll Banks III with 14 points.
The Peacocks are a No. 15 seed team, meaning they were in the second-lowest ranking group to enter the tournament.
They gained national attention after knocking out the second-seeded Kentucky in their first game before moving on to defeat seventh-seeded Murray State, advancing to the third round of the tournament, which is known as the Sweet 16.
Almost nobody predicted that they’d get past that first game. For example, 95.6% of all ESPN brackets had Kentucky advancing in the first round, according to SB Nation.
Who are the Peacocks?
With an undergraduate student enrollment of just over 2,100 students, Saint Peter’s isn’t a large school. To put that in perspective, just the freshman class of their opponent Purdue is more than 10,000 students.
If you’re not from the Jersey City area, you may not have heard of Saint Peter’s before this year’s tournament. But they’ve received national attention now, with celebrities such as former New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning recently tweeting his support.
Peacock players have also been able to cash in on their new-found fame with guard Doug Edert recently signing a Name Image and Likeness (NIL) deal with Buffalo Wild Wings as well as a line of clothing with Barstool.
This is the first year NCAA players have been able to sign endorsement deals during the tournament due to a Supreme Court decision last summer allowing athletes to get paid for the use of their names, images and likenesses.
And there’s plenty of money when it comes to March Madness. Last year’s tournament brought in $850 million in television rights alone.
It’s not just the players who can benefit financially due to their new-found national fame. Small sports programs that make runs in the tournament can be transformed. Legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski suggested on SiriusXM that it’s likely that Saint Peter’s will turn their tournament wins into “tens of millions” of dollars.
How did Saint Peter’s get into the tournament?
Thirty-two of the 68 teams included in the tournament get there through automatic bids by winning their respective conference tournaments, which is exactly what the Peacocks did this year. Saint Peter’s defeated Monmouth to be crowned champions of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and punched their ticket to the big dance.
After the NCAA determines which teams will be playing in the tournament, a selection committee goes through the process of seeding, determining where teams are ranked, which region they will compete in and who each team will play in the first round.
It can be hard for committee members to know the true strength of a team before March Madness starts. Saint Peter’s played only one other tournament team during their regular season — fourth-seeded Providence. The Peacocks lost that game 85-71. Providence is still in the tournament and will face favorites Kansas tonight.
How have ‘Cinderella’ teams fared in the past?
Saint Peter’s has made history as the first No. 15 seed to advance to the Elite Eight round of the tournament.
Eleventh-seeded teams have fared well in the past. In 1990, Loyola advanced to the Elite Eight. In 2006, George Mason made it to the Final Four. So did the 2011 VCU team, and Loyola Chicago made it to the Final Four in 2018.
In 2008, NBA superstar Steph Curry burst onto the basketball scene leading 10th-seeded Davidson to the Elite Eight.
The lowest-seeded team to ever win the tournament is the 8th seeded Villanova team of 1985, in what has been called “the perfect game.”
By Jeff Dean