April 13, 2024

Saint Peters made an NCAA run for the ages

If you watched this year’s March Madness, you have certainly heard about the Cinderella team that
made national headlines: The Saint Peters Peacocks.
The small school from Jersey City was the tournament’s feel-good story. The 15 seed stunned everyone
with their journey to the Elite Eight. Saint Peter’s run was one of the most incredible in NCAA
tournament history. Following their disappointing 69-49 loss to North Carolina, it is time to look at the
private Jesuit school that proved everyone wrong.
Saint Peter’s University’s enrollment is 3,000 students in Jersey City, New Jersey. It is the only Division I
school with Peacocks for a mascot. Head Coach Shaheen Holloway has been the team’s leader this
season. He’s not your typical coach; he was a phenomenal athlete who spent seven seasons playing
professional basketball.
Holloway, a McDonald’s All-American out of high school, was the most valuable player of the All-
American game in 1996, a roster that included NBA legend Kobe Bryant. After his high school career, he
signed with Seton Hall and started for four years.
After seven seasons of professional ball, Holloway went into coaching and became an assistant coach for
Seton Hall. He was hired to coach Sant Peters in 2018, and the rest is history.
Holloway got off to a rocky start in his first year in the program. The team went 10-22 and looked brutal
at times, but Holloway kept working, and slowly the team got better each year. This season the team
went 21-11 and won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship. That gave Saint Peters an
automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and it was seeded 15th in the East bracket.
Fifteen seeds are presumed to be doomed from the beginning. In the history of March Madness, only
nine 15 seeds have even won a game, let alone go on a Cinderella run. The Peacocks played the blue-
blood powerhouse Kentucky, a prestigious basketball program for years that pours money into athletics.
In 2020, Kentucky spent $138.3 million on its athletic teams, whereas Saint Peter’s spent $7.2 million.
Kentucky’s Head Coach John Calipari makes $9.5 million a year, 87 times the $109,000 that Holloway
The Peacocks were no match for the Wildcats in talent. Not a single player on Saint Peters’ roster was a
three-star recruit coming out of high school. Kentucky, on the other hand, had four five-star athletes.
Despite Kentucky’s talent, numbers, money, and the odds, the Peacocks pulled off an improbable upset
89-75 to become the 10th 15-seed to ever defeat a two seed. The victory advanced the Peacocks to the
round of 32, proving that teamwork still prevails over individual talent.
Jersey City exploded with excitement. The school’s website crashed as people Googled the unknown
Saint Peter’s next opponent was seven-seed Murray State. Murray State was not as talented as
Kentucky, but advancing to the Sweet 16 is a challenge for any team.

Las Vegas odds made Murray State a nine-point favorite, but Saint Peters was the better team from the
tipoff. Peacock guard Doug Edit scored 13 points off the bench, including some key baskets late in the
game. Saint Peter’s jumped to a 13-point lead early in the second half and never looked back, winning
The only No. 15 seeds that had ever made the Sweet 16, Florida Gulf Coast and Oral Roberts, both lost in
the first round of regionals. The Peacocks had the opportunity to be the first to make the Elite Eight, but
in their way was three-seed Purdue, a team often ranked in the Top 10 during the regular season.
Purdue’s star player was 7-foot-four Zach Edey, who might be selected first in the NBA draft. Edey led
the Boilermakers to a 29-8 record and the third seed in the East region. Saint Peters was a 14-point
underdog, but that didn’t deter them once again.
The game was tight throughout, and Purdue led by six at the half. The second half was a war. Purdue’s
defense struggled early and Saint Peter’s made a 10-0 run to take the lead. The Peacocks led for most of
the second half until Purdue went on a run.
With 5:18 remaining, Purdue forward Trevion Williams scored on a layup to put Purdue up 56-52.
However, The Peacock’s offense responded and retook the lead. Doug Edit came up clutch down the
stretch again and buried two free throws to put the Peacocks up three with four seconds left. A last-
second heave by Purdue came up short, and the Peacock made history as the first 15-seed to make the
Elite Eight.
All Cinderella stories end, and the Peacocks lost to North Carolina in a bid to make the Final Four.
However, the team has left a mark on college basketball forever. No team before accomplished what
the Peacocks did and I do not think any team ever will accomplish it again.
Saint Peters basketball is one of the lowest funded programs in the entire country. It has minimal talent
but, despite this, the team pulled off an improbable run for the ages.
Underdogs such as the Saint Peter’s Peacocks remind us why we play sports in the first place. Because
even the underdog can find greatness.