Thanks for the memories, peacocks
We’re on to the Final Four – the one that, after all we’ve just witnessed, will ironically feature four proper blue blood programs, as well as arguably the biggest game of the season between Duke and North Carolina. It will also take place without St. Peter, a statement that really isn’t all that surprising in a vacuum, but you’d be lying if you said you wouldn’t miss these guys. (Or you’re a Tar Heel fan, or a Purdue fan, or a Kentucky fan).
The Peacocks, the first No. 15 seed to make the Elite Eight, didn’t have their best thing on Sunday, falling by 20 at UNC without really landing a proper punch. While it wouldn’t be fair to excuse them – they certainly wouldn’t tell you otherwise – it would frankly have been difficult to expect or ask for more, given the odds they had overcome just to get this far, and the fact that there was absolutely no chance of them sneaking up on an opponent again. “They hang their hats on the punch-in-the-mouth teams, being the underdog, that kind of thing,” Carolina forward Leaky Black said. “We just had to let them know it wasn’t going to happen tonight.”
Nobody will remember how the Peacocks got out, only that they got here without a fluke: they managed three upsets thanks to the quality of their play, the courage of their group and the intrigues of the coach Shaheen Holloway, who by all accounts will soon be appointed to the Seton Hall job, a post he will certainly have earned. “Coming in, Coach established the vision he had,” goaltender Daryl Banks said. “We all went on board with that vision.” Say what you will about the school budget, the circumstances, chance, but Banks, KC Ndefo, Doug Edert and his mustache, and the whole bunch deserved these moments, proving it with their fearless play. In theory, many of them could be back for another run next season, but it’ll probably never be so good for the Peacocks again – it’s hard to imagine outplaying Purdue in the Sweet 16 on National Day peacock in a classic. Yet after all this, who has to say?
The final post-game question posed to Holloway by reporters on Sunday was an open-ended one. He was asked what he would remember the most about the past few weeks: “A bunch of guys came here, nobody gave it a chance, nobody believed it, but the people in our dressing room who are in our program, the administration, us and made history,” Holloway said. “They shocked the world. You have guys who will be remembered for things they could say to their kids and grandkids “It’s a story within a story. I’m super proud of these guys. They came on and made history. Point-blank range, period. Nobody did.”
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And while it would be nice to say that no No. 15 seed will ever do it again, thanks to Saint Peter’s, we’ve all learned our lesson about confident predictions at this time of year.
• And with the release of Cinderella, who will come out to win a battle of blue bloods? Pat Forde on the busy Men’s Final Four and the full storyline that could unfold for Coach K.
• UNC didn’t look like a Final Four team at the start of the season. Kevin Sweeney explains how a steady climb and never-ending faith in their coach got the Tar Heels dancing to New Orleans.
• Despite being the No. 1 seed, Kansas is far from at the forefront of tournament discussions. But as everyone bowed out, the Jayhawks kept moving, writes Jeremy Woo.
Games to watch
• State NC n° 1 against UConn n° 2: It’s been 24 years since NC State last appeared in the Final Four. And to finally return, all the Wolfpack has to do is end UConn’s 13-year Final Four travel streak – to Bridgeport, Connecticut, no less. NC State rallied late against Notre Dame on Saturday thanks to guard Raina Perez, who fired a midfield steal and the go-ahead with 14 seconds left to secure a 66-63 victory. The Huskies, however, sailed through their Sweet 16 game against Indiana, coming out with a 16-0 run to start the second half and ultimately manage the Hoosiers, 75-58. 7 p.m. ET, ESPN