By Andrew Franceski, Staff Reporter It happens every year without fail. It sneaks up on you when you least expect it. Hardcore fans have checked their brackets a thousand times and even casual fans with mascot brackets and brackets filled out the night before the start of the Big Dance feel safe. It is then...
By Andrew Franceski, Staff Reporter
It happens every year without fail. It sneaks up on you when you least expect it. Hardcore fans have checked their brackets a thousand times and even casual fans with mascot brackets and brackets filled out the night before the start of the Big Dance feel safe. It is then they strike: The Cinderellas.
Every tournament has a Cinderella story, a low-seeded team who wins a few games with a colorful cast of players who were viewed as not good enough to play at a traditional powerhouse like Duke or UNC.
Fans may recall the run of Loyola Chicago in 2018, when the 11th seeded Ramblers made it all the way to the Final Four, supported by spunky 98-year-old nun Sister Jean. Or last year’s darlings, Oral Roberts, who were the third ever 15-seed to make it to the Sweet Sixteen behind the sharpshooting of Max Abmas.
Cinderellas are a quintessential part of March Madness, and the 2022 Men’s Basketball Tournament may have had the greatest Cinderella of all time: The Saint Peter’s University Peacocks.
This year, over 25 million brackets were entered online alone, as fans geared up for the first normal March Madness in almost three years. Favorites included Gonzaga, Baylor, and my pick to win it all; Arizona. Fourth on this list however was Kentucky.
The first half of Thursday games passed without any big upsets, then St. Peters vs. Kentucky tipped off. A tiny New Jersey college shut down Kentucky, led by potential number one pick this year, Oscar Tshiebwe 85-79 in (OT). Just like that the number of perfect brackets, which started around 25 million, had dropped to just under 1,000. However, the magnitude of this upset would not truly sink in until the next day.
Kentucky spends 36 times the amount of money each year on their basketball program than St. Peters. The Peacocks’ home court has a similar capacity to the large gym at Conestoga. This was a true David and Goliath story. Surely, they couldn’t beat Murray State in the Round of 32? Murray State held the longest win streak in Division 1 at 21 games. St Peters quietly dispatched the Racers 70-60 behind mustachioed sharpshooter Doug Edert, who became the face of the team as they captured the hearts of America including mine.
The Peacocks became only the third 15 seed to reach the Sweet Sixteen and returned home heroes to train for their matchup against Purdue, ranked 8th in the country, at the Wells Fargo Center. And Philadelphia welcomed them, in front of a large crowd almost all cheering for them, the Peacocks became the first 15 seed to reach the Elite Eight where they would lose to UNC 69-49 to end their magical run.
But the Peacocks left their mark on America. Jersey sales in the week following their Kentucky upset and winners’ bonuses, will provide extra funding to St. Peters’ athletics for years to come. Their Sweet 16 game against Purdue was also the most watched game of the entire tournament. America, myself included, for a week adopted these Cinderellas as they put together arguably the greatest underdog run of all time.
Even though the clock eventually must strike midnight and the carriage must return to a pumpkin, Cinderella runs are the best part of March Madness each year. There will be one next year, and I can’t wait for my perfectly constructed bracket to be busted by Cinderella and her slipper.
Andrew Franceski can be reached at [email protected]
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