Heading into 2022 the statistical odds of a 15 seed upsetting a 2 seed were very, very low, coming in at 6.25 percent. Those odds have actually improved over the past decade, though, with Saint Peter’s becoming the sixth 15 seed to win in the opening round since 2012 (interestingly enough, two 15 seeds won that year in 2012). Prior to that it was 11 years since a 15 seed upended a two seed, with Hampton edging Iowa State by a point.
The Peacocks continued to remain a statistical oddity, becoming the third 15 seed to advance to the Sweet 16 and joining Florida Gulf Coast (2013) and Oral Roberts (2021). Those two teams were competitive in the Sweet 16 before ultimately coming up short in their upset bid.
Saint Peter’s wasn’t the top seed in the MAAC Tournament and avoided playing the regular season champs Iona on their way to a tournament title and NCAA Tournament bid. In the first round of the tourney the Peacocks rode an uncharacteristically hot hand, shooting 50.9% from the field, 52.9% from three and 85.7% from the line on their way to an overtime upset over Kentucky. The Wildcats struggled shooting the ball, going 4 of 15 from three, while leaving too many points on the table and making only 23 of their 35 free throws.
In the second round the Peacocks offense slowed down, shooting only 41.5% from the field and 23.1% from three, but took advantage of 31 free throw attempts to get past Murray State. Saint Peter’s is 230th in field goal percentage and 270th in free throw percentage, though their 35.5% clip from three is 79th best in the nation (they only shoot 16.5 threes per game, however, near the bottom of the country ranking 342nd). Their 67.5 points per game is 267th in the nation, while their offense rating of 100.3 puts them as the 238th best offense. They do get to the line, averaging 20.7 free throws per game. Like Purdue, though, they struggle to take advantage of this as they make only 69.1% of their attempts.
Cinderella story aside, the reality is Saint Peter’s doesn’t have a particularly good offense. That offense is led by Daryl Banks III, who averages 11.4 points per game and shoots just under 38% from three. Only one other player averages double figures, with forward KC Ndefo averaging 10.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
If the Peacocks want to continue an improbable run to the Elite 8 they’ll most likely need to ride their defense, with Saint Peter’s giving up 62.2 points per game (19th in the nation) and featuring a defensive rating of 92.4 that puts them 20th in the nation. Their defensive ability to slow down Kentucky and Murray State (as well as Kentucky’s inability to hit free throws) helped them advance to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
Something that was talked about a decent amount this past weekend was Purdue’s 46-12 free throw advantage over Texas. If you actually watched the game and realized the two teams at hand, the end result was lopsided but not that surprising. The Longhorns averaged 17.9 fouls per game, putting them 86th in the nation. In comparison the Boilermakers commit 14.4 fouls per game, putting them near the bottom of the country, while drawing 19.4 fouls per game, putting them 12th in free throw attempts per game. Making things even more problematic for Texas was their considerable size disadvantage, leading Purdue to consistently feed their big men inside, as well as Jaden Ivey attacking the rim repeatedly. The end result was an absurd number of foul shots, especially after quickly reaching the double bonus.
Why is this relevant? Well, Saint Peter’s commits just under 20 fouls per game, putting them in the top 20 in country (only three schools in the tournament committed more fouls during the season, all of which were already eliminated). The Peacocks’ opponents average 21.9 free throws per game, putting Saint Peter’s in the bottom 20 for free throws allowed per game. And while the Peacocks are a bit taller than the Longhorns, their tallest starter the first two rounds is 6’8” forward Clarence Rupert, who is averaging under 14 minutes per game this season. Reserve Oumar Diahame is 6’10”, but he’s played limited minutes. Either way, Saint Peter’s will likely face a similar onslaught inside as Purdue looks to replicate some of the same success they had against Texas.
This will be the second time these two teams square off, with the first taking place in the NCAA Tournament back in 2011. In that game a 3 seeded Boilermakers knocked off the 14 seed Saint Peter’s 65-43, led by E’Twaun Moore’s 19 points.