Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Who is Saint Peter’s? Meet the Peacocks, the March Madness Cinderella team in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

Who in the world is Saint Peter’s? If you’re asking yourself that question, just know you aren’t the only one. Even the most die-hard college basketball fans don’t know too much about the Peacocks, who are the first No. 15 seed to ever make it to the Elite Eight after knocking off No. 3 seed Purdue 67-64 in the Sweet 16 on Friday. 

So back to the question: Who is Saint Peter’s, and where in the world did these gritty Peacocks come from? Glad you asked. We’ve got all the answers to introduce you to the darling underdog of  this year’s NCAA Tournament.

Where is Saint Peter’s?

Saint Peter’s is located in Jersey City, New Jersey, just minutes outside of New York City. The private Jesuit university is set on a campus sprawling 30 acres in the second-largest city in New Jersey. Founded in 1872, its total enrollment for the fall of 2021 was just over 3,000, according to the school’s website.

How did Saint Peter’s get into the Big Dance?

This year marks just the fourth time Saint Peter’s has been in the NCAA Tournament field, and its win over Kentucky in the first round marked the program’s first victory in March Madness. 

The Peacocks strutted into the field despite losing the MAAC regular season by three games to Rick Pitino’s Iona Gaels, after winning three games in four days in the MAAC Tournament to clinch the league’s automatic NCAA Tournament bid. After falling to MAAC regular-season champion Iona twice on the season, the Gaels lost in a stunner to Rider in the league’s conference tourney, which opened the door for the Peacocks to dance through.

Wait, their mascot is really the Peacocks?

Yes, yes it is.

Saint Peter’s closed down from 1918 to 1930 because of the impact of World War I and because Jesuit superiors wanted to focus on other colleges along the East Coast. When it reopened in 1930, Rev. Gannon, the Dean, named the Peacock the official mascot of the college to reflect “the spirit of resurrection and eternal life,” according to the school’s website. The Peacock also tied the college to the settling of Jersey City, which was originally called “Pavonia,” or “Land of the Peacock.”

Saint Peter’s hosts an annual Peacock Pride Day — a tradition that began in 2016 to celebrate the legacy and birthday of the late Rev. Gannon. It is celebrated on April 20 each year, and during the celebration, students, faculty, staff and administrators get decked out in Peacock gear while enjoying food, giveaways and music.

Who are the players to know on Saint Peter’s?

Junior guard Daryl Banks III is the leading scorer for the Peacocks. The Los Angeles native scored 27 points in the first-round win over Kentucky before following it up with a pedestrian six-point outing in Round 2 before pouring in a team-high 14 to lead them past Purdue. 

Defensively, three-time MAAC Defensive Player of the Year KC Ndefo is the star. He had two blocks in the first-round win over UK to go along with seven points, three boards and a pair of assists. He then followed that up with 17 points, 10 boards and six blocks vs. Murray State in the second round and was a key defender against Purdue before fouling out. 

Finally, off the bench, Jersey native Doug Edert — the man with the best mustache in the entire NCAA Tournament — is the gunner to know. He put up 20 points against UK and has been one of the most vital pieces of the Peacocks’ attack. He nailed seven of his eight free throw attempts vs. Purdue, including two with five seconds left that iced the game.

Who coaches Saint Peter’s?

That would be Shaheen Holloway, a former McDonald’s All-American who went on to become a four-year starter for Seton Hall in the late 1990s. He played professionally abroad until 2007. In 2007, Holloway joined Iona’s staff as an assistant coach before joining his alma mater’s coaching staff in 2010. He left that gig in 2018 to become the head coach at Saint Peter’s, where he is 64-53 as the school’s coach.

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