An unlikely underdog

Kaylee Donnelly, Senior Writer

This March, a large portion of the country watched their brackets get ruined after a slew of upsets took over the tournament. Big losses occurred over the first three rounds, with tournament favorites like Gonzaga, Baylor, Alabama and Wisconsin being knocked out by the elite eight. One team, however, stood out amongst most. The Saint Peter’s Basketball team went on a three-game run in the tournament to become the farthest reaching No. 15 seed in history. 

The largely-commuter school from New Jersey stunned the nation after defeating No. 2 seed Kentucky in the first round, breaking brackets and obtaining a huge amount of media attention. The team didn’t stop there either, winning their next two games over No. 7 seed Murray State before defeating No. 3 seed Purdue. 

The team was overlooked by many. A small school of just 2,600 undergraduates, majority commuters and almost all who received some sort of financial aid, was not what the NCAA nor the country expected when looking at the updated bracket in the elite eight. A relatively unknown university transforming themselves into one of the most talked about schools in the nation is surely a feat. 

What’s even more impressive in the grand scheme of the NCAA is the financial disparity between Saint Peter’s budget and the team they faced against. Saint Peter’s first opponent Kentucky spent approximately $130 million more on athletics than the Peacocks did. The school’s operating budget is, startlingly, less than $250,000. This also falls around Saint Peter’s head coach Shaheen Holloway’s salary of about $266,000. John Calipari, head coach of Kentucky, is one of the highest paid coaches in the NCAA with his salary rounding out to about $8 million.

As many know, the team was not invincible, falling to the University of North Carolina 69-49 and ending the Peacocks tournament career. But the team has garnered a large amount of support from the country after their winning streak, with their popularity soaring amongst media outlets and across many social media platforms. 

What does their winning streak mean for the future? Two things. First, the MAAC conference is expected to receive about $6 million for the Peacocks’ success. How the money will be distributed between the teams in the conference is up in the air, despite Saint Peter’s being responsible for the money in the first place. Second, a coaching change might be in place. Holloway is expected to take the open Seton Hall head coaching position, which would result in a raise almost 10x more than his current salary. Many think whether or not he will take it is a no brainer, however the coach has declined to make statements currently, stating he cared more about his team post UNC lost.

Wherever the coach ends up, or however the money is distributed, the 2022 Saint Peter’s basketball team made history. A bracket-defying run, the team managed to upset some of the best schools in the country, and became the first No.15 seed to make it past the sweet 16. It will be interesting to see if the team can put themselves back on the board next year and maintain a place in the country’s heart.

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