Photo by Hannah Ally/JSN

Reflecting on Saint Peter's magical NCAA Tournament run

As the state of New Jersey recovers from the magical run of Saint Peter’s through the NCAA Tournament, many have taken a step back to reflect on the Peacocks’ season.

After Sunday’s 69-49 loss to North Carolina in the Elite Eight, the naysayers came out of the woodwork quick to point out how Saint Peter’s were outmatched and did not belong there. ESPN’s Domonique Foxworth called the game “trash” and said he hated watching a game with a team he had to Google. This is after the Peacocks defeated Kentucky and Purdue in a week, but it’s not a blueblood, so who cares.

The name Doug became a household name as Doug Edert became one of the unsung heroes of the NCAA Tournament, becoming Saint Peter’s go-to player throughout. The power of Doug’s mustache became a story as many players around the country will now grow an Edert mustache and rise to new heights. The junior guard showed a knack for being in the right place at the right time, especially late in games hitting big free throws to ice three wins.

Senior forward KC Ndefo, especially in the game against North Carolina, had a coming-out party on the defensive end. The three-time MAAC Defensive Player of the Year showed the nation that the three blocks a game he averaged was not a product of playing in the MAAC but a product of his prowess to be a defensive force able to change the game. While he isn’t a star scoring 25 points a game, he could be a player that NBA teams look at as a player that could hang in the league.

Matthew Lee and Daryl Banks III solidified the guard position for Saint Peter’s along with Edert during the team’s run. While he struggled against the Tar Heels, Banks was a revelation as a sharpshooter as Kentucky learned his name in the first round. Lee grew as the Peacocks advanced as he was a calming figure and ran Shaheen Holloway’s offense perfectly.

A possible star was born in Clarence Rupert. The 6’8” forward from Philadelphia made a case to be the likely replacement for Ndefo next season. In a game where Saint Peter’s needed a big body against Purdue, Rupert scored 11 points and made the Boilermakers’ big men work down low. Next season, keep your eye on Clarence Rupert and his role with the team.

Finally, we get to Coach Shaheen Holloway. As I covered the team in his second year with the program, I wondered whether his inclination to play 10-12 players could work. During a postgame press conference in 2020, Holloway was very clear about what he thought about his rotation when I asked him about it.

“We don’t have a starting five. I’m gonna play the guys that give me what I want at practice. I’m playing guys that help me win games. At the time, it could be anybody.”

Photo by Hannah Ally/JSN

At the time, I didn’t know that Holloway was creating a team of battle-tested players that could play at any point in any game. There is always a thought that a team must have a set starting lineup or a “final four-minute” lineup. No matter whom he inserted into games, not just doing the NCA Tournament but during his time as coach, they were ready to go and contribute. He created a system where it would be next man up, and no matter what, the players respected it and rolled with the punches. That is how you create a team.

Holloway led Saint Peter’s to heights unseen in the program’s history. Heck, unseen in the history of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. His players love playing for him, and he loves coaching his guys. The March Madness run crystallized that relationship. Even though they stopped from advancing to the Final Four, they were and continue to be the story of the college basketball world.

The End of the Road For Saint Peter's

No matter what the future holds for the program, Shaheen Holloway and his players, this memorable run will be in the annals of college basketball and show every small school that it is possible to fight Goliath and win.

"A group of guys came in here no one gave a chance to, no one believed in, but the people in our locker room that's in our program, administration, us, and made history," said Holloway. "They shocked the world. You've got guys that's going to be remembered for things that they could tell their kids and grandkids. It's a story within a story."

"I'm super proud of these guys. They came in and made history. Point-blank, period. No one has done it. The last team to do it (New Jersey team to make the Elite Eight) was P.J. Carlesimo's team (Seton Hall in 1991). Saint Peter's did it. Period. Saint Peter's made it to the Elite Eight. Great story. You guys write about it."

Congratulations, Saint Peter’s.