15 is greater than 2.

No this isn’t a post about math. I’m not really wired that way.

I’m talking about college basketball. Over the past couple days we’ve seen why the NCAA College Basketball Tournament is the best sporting event in the United States. If you disagree, you’re wrong. The Super Bowl is way too much hype. The NBA Finals and the World Series are usually won by the teams with the fattest payroll. And the NHL? Well I don’t know much about hockey, but I imagine their finals are like the world’s worst ice fishing expedition.

Over the past couple days of March Madness® (that’s a trademarked term by the way… good thing I don’t make any money on this blog), lots of games went right down to the wire. Especially on Thursday. There were three overtime games. Two teams that were seeded #12 beat the teams that were seeded #5. Number 16 seed Georgia State went toe to toe with the top-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs for about 30 minutes…. unfortunately for them, college basketball games are 40 minutes long.

But the cherry on top was when the scrappy Peacocks from Saint Peter’s University beat the blue-blooded Wildcats from the University of Kentucky. Saint Peter’s went into the game a 17.5-point underdog. but they kept fighting and kept scrapping and knocked off one of the most storied programs in college basketball, and a perennial powerhouse. The #15 seed was greater than #2.

In case you didn’t know it, St Peter’s University is in Jersey City, New Jersey. The city where I was born.

389 Liberty Avenue, Jersey City, NJ… a.k.a. “home”

It’s also the city where my dad’s family grew up. My Uncle John (my Dad’s older brother) was a graduate of Saint Peter’s (back when it was known as St. Peter’s College). And he loved basketball.

Uncle John also loved serving others, so he became a Jesuit priest and taught at a high school in the Philippines for most of his adult life. My dad didn’t go to Saint Peter’s but he was just as much of a staunch Catholic as my priestly uncle. (We jokingly referred to him as “Pope Herbert I.”) So during the college b-ball season, and especially when March Madness® rolled around, he loved rooting for the Catholic universities. He would have been happy over the past couple days: Gonzaga, Creighton, Notre Dame, St. Mary’s, Villanova and Saint Peter’s all advanced to the next round.

Uncle John officiated at my Dad’s wedding

Schools that pull off upsets in the NCAA tourney typically get a boost in college applications. Uncle John and “Pope Herb” would surely be thrilled that a small Jesuit university in their home city is getting some extra attention.

By the time the Saint Peter’s-Kentucky game ended it, it was close to midnight on St. Patrick’s Day. My dad passed away on March 18th twelve years ago. But I know he and my Uncle John are really happy that some scrappy kids from Jersey City — kids with the odds stacked against them — kept on fighting and came out on top.

In fact, I’m sure both of them are high-fiving the original St. Peter right now!

Update: St. Peter’s beat Murray State on 3/19 to advance to the Sweet 16, only the 3rd #15 seed to make it that far in the history of the tourney, and the most unlikely one.

This is far and away the most unlikely Sweet 16 entrant in the history of the NCAA tournament.

Joe Lunardi

This article from Yahoo! Sports captures the euphoria.

“Now all you have to say is St. Peter’s University and everybody knows what you’re talking about. Our basketball team put us on the map.”

Brooke Boutchie, a St. Peter’s student and defender on the women’s soccer team.
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