Saint Peter’s is many things at this very moment after having pulled off another monstrous upset in the NCAA tournament, knocking off No. 3 seed Purdue 67-64 Friday night to advance to the Elite Eight.
It is arguably the greatest March Madness “Cinderella” of all time, becoming the first No. 15 seed (or 13-16 seed) to play for a spot in the Final Four.
It is arguably the best underdog story in team sports history — and we’ll be able to make that claim more firmly if the Peacocks take down a second blue blood in this tournament in No. 8 seed North Carolina, which edged past UCLA 73-66 Friday night.
Depending on what happens Saturday night in the Duke-Arkansas West regional final in San Francisco, Saint Peter’s very well could be the only thing standing in the way of an historic Duke-North Carolina matchup in the Final Four that should have felt preordained from the moment Coach K announced his retirement last summer (the Blue Devils and Tar Heels have somehow never played in the tournament).
Of course, as tantalizing as Tobacco Road planting itself in New Orleans next week may be to some, it would be nauseating to just as many.
But Saint Peter’s — Saint Peter’s, the Jesuit university across the East River from Manhattan in Jersey City with 2,600 undergraduates! — will have a say. The Peacocks have proven they can beat this surging North Carolina team, already having sent home No. 2 seed Kentucky, No. 7 seed Murray State and the Boilermakers.
Saint Peter’s was a 13-point underdog to Purdue, an extremely competitive Big Ten program which has not made a Final Four since 1980. And yet the Peacocks, who played in only three NCAA tournaments until this one, are one game away.
In one tournament, they’ve won more games against top-three seeds (two) than Gonzaga has in two decades (one).
Here’s how they’ve made history and how they’ll hope to keep their dream — what is now America’s dream — alive: