Saint Peter’s did the impossible. They beat the Kentucky Wildcats in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Saint Peter’s wasn’t supposed to stand a chance against the Wildcats. Not a program from a school in Jersey City, New Jersey, with an enrollment of about 2,300 students, that plays in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and entered Thursday as an 18.5-point underdog. But it was the Peacocks who gave John Calipari his first opening-round loss since he became coach of the Kentucky Wildcats while being just the 10th No. 15 seed to win a first-round game since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
The Peacocks’ win is the largest upset in the NCAA tournament since Coppin State (+18.5) knocked off South Carolina in 1997. It’s also tied for the fourth-largest point-spread upset in the tournament since 1985.
The Wildcats, a favorite to come out of the East Region and reach the Final Four, didn’t enter the tournament playing as crisply as they wanted to. They had a late-season loss at Arkansas and then lost to Tennessee in the semifinals of the SEC tournament. Kentucky was 4-of-15 on 3-pointers Thursday.
Thursday’s first-round action offered 16 NCAA Tournament games – three of which went into overtime, including a thrilling finale that saw Murray State clip San Francisco.
While the early part of the day started quiet — outside of No. 11 seed Michigan knocking out No. 6 Colorado State, the second half of the day produced a string of bracket-busting upsets. We welcomed our first Cinderella of the day in Richmond. The No. 12 seeded Spiders shocked No. 5 Iowa to advance in the Midwest region. Next came fellow No. 12 seed New Mexico State, fueled by breakout star Teddy Allen’s 37 points, in an upset of No. 5 UConn to advance in the West.
But the unrivaled highlight of the day came when Saint Peter’s stunned Kentucky.