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The Saint Peter’s Peacocks are the story of the NCAA Tournament. That’s because they are the first 15 seed to reach the Elite Eight.
Students on the Jersey City campus of Saint Peter’s couldn’t be more proud.
They exploded with excitement inside the school gym after their historic win over Purdue Friday night.
Now the ever-growing legion of Peacocks fans – folks who’d never heard of Daryl Banks III, Clarence Rupert or Doug Edert two weeks ago – hold to the belief the Sweet 16 upset over powerful Purdue established a pattern, one that could take the little school from Jersey City, New Jersey, right to the Final Four.
All that stands between the Peacocks and Bourbon Street next week is No. 8 seed North Carolina, one of the bluest of the bluebloods, in the East Region final in Philadelphia, a 93-mile drive from their campus.
First-year coach Hubert Davis and the Tar Heels have been a pretty good story themselves, playing their way off the tournament bubble late in the regular season and knocking out Marquette, Baylor and UCLA.
Never mind that Carolina’s number of national championships, six, is one fewer than the Peacocks’ total number of NCAA Tournament games played in their 58-year basketball history.
Coach Shaheen Holloway’s Peacocks are 8.5-point underdogs, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. All of Carolina’s advantages on paper really don’t mean much at this point. After all, Saint Peter’s wasn’t supposed to be able to handle Purdue’s superior size, strength and talent, but it did.
Analysts say the big difference between the Tar Heels and the three previous teams St. Peter’s has beaten, is the pace.
Kentucky, Murray state and Purdue all ranked in the bottom third nationally in tempo. That can even the playing field for a lower seed.
Analysts believe North Carolina will try to push the tempo and get the points when St. Peter’s isn’t set defensively, which is smart, because the Peacocks have an elite half-court defense.
Either way, Saint Peter’s, Jersey City and the Tri-State area is still basking in their win against Purdue.
“We can’t do that Cinderella, underdogs this that, I got guys that just play basketball,” Coach Holloway said.
“Obviously we have a lot more fans now, but I don’t think it affects us while we’re playing,” player Doug Edert said. “There’s no pressure, we’re just going out there like we would if no one was in the stands. Our game is our game regardless of who’s watching.”
The Peacocks take on the tar heels Sunday afternoon.
Students are once again expected to pack their gym.
Tip off is at 5:05 p.m.
The Associated Press contributed to this story
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