Saint Peter’s University is this year’s March Madness Cinderella story, the latest small Catholic school to upset the NCAA apple cart.
When the heavily favored University of Kentucky Wildcats faced off against the St. Peter’s University Peacocks in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, it’s fair to say that most people watching hadn’t heard of the small Jesuit school in Jersey City, New Jersey.
After the 15-seeded Peacocks’ knocked off the No. 2-seeded Wildcats in a 85-79 win in overtime, all of that changed.
Suddenly the Saint Peter’s was trending, leaving millions of broken brackets in its wake, as everyone wanted to know the same thing: Where did this Saint Peter’s University team come from?
Two days later, the Saint Peter’s Peacocks vaulted into the Sweet 16 with a 70-60 victory over Murray State. They are only the third No. 15 seed to advance that far in the NCAA Tournament since 1985.
The upset against Murray State seemed inevitable somehow, perhaps because it was reminiscent of another small Catholic college’s Cinderellarun in the NCAA tournament. In 2018, 11-seeded Loyola University of Chicago — and their ever-present team chaplain Sister Jean — captured the hearts of the nation on their unlikely Goliath-slaying trip to the Final Four.
Back to the question on everyone’s mind: What is Saint Peter’s?
Founded by the Society of Jesus in 1972 as Saint Peter’s College, the university today serves just over 2,600 undergraduates and 800 graduate students. Set on 30 acres in Jersey City, the campus is two miles from New York City. Most of the school’s undergraduates hail from the state of New Jersey (88%). According to U.S. News and World Report, the most popular majors at Saint Peter’s include Biology, Business Administration and Management, Criminal Justice, and Nursing.
Saint Peter’s is one of 27 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States. It is the only Jesuit institution of high education in the state of New Jersey.
How did they make it to the NCAA Tournament?
The Saint Peter’s Peacocks (20-11) finished second in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, but won their conference’s championship tournament to secure an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament.
Known as scrappy and undersized, the squad’s top players are KC Ndefo (MAAC Defensive Player of the Year and the NCAA’s leader in blocked shots), and offensive threats Daryl Banks III and Doug Edert.