The glass slipper still fits. The carriage hasn’t turned back into a pumpkin. The clock has yet to strike midnight. You get the idea.
Stick around, Cinderella. Friday’s 67-64 win against No. 3 Purdue sent No. 15 Saint Peter’s into the Elite Eight of the men’s NCAA Tournament, continuing one of the most unpredictable and engrossing runs in postseason history.
The Peacocks are the latest team to earn the title of America’s darling. Now, with the run lasting at least one more game, let’s ask the question: Who does Saint Peter’s join among the biggest underdog stories since the tournament expanded to the 64-team bracket in 1985?
1985: Villanova (25-10)
Villanova was a No. 8 seed in the new 64-team field after going just 19-10 during the regular season in a loaded Big East, including an 0-2 mark against top-ranked Georgetown. But the Wildcats would escape No. 9 Dayton (51-49), No. 1 Michigan (59-55) and No. 5 Maryland (46-43) to reach the Elite Eight, earn a rare double-digit win against No. 2 North Carolina (56-44) to crack the Final Four, and then defeat No. 5 Memphis (52-45) to set up a third matchup with Georgetown. This time, Villanova would score one of the great upsets in tournament history (66-64) to win the championship.
1986: LSU (26-12)
LSU finished sixth in the SEC during the regular season and barely sneaked into the bracket as the No. 11 seed in the Southeast Region. Helped in part by playing the first two rounds in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the Tigers became the first No. 11 to reach the Final Four and remain the only such seed to beat a No. 1 (Kentucky), a No. 2 (Georgia). Tech) and a No. 3 (Memphis) in the same tournament.
1988: Kansas (27-11)
It feels strange to count the Jayhawks among the tournament underdogs; Kansas is one of the sport’s true bluebloods. But these Jayhawks rival 1985 Villanova for the wackiest championship run in tournament history: KU lost 11 games, still the most of any title winner, and was carried every step of the way by a legendary effort from star forward Danny Manning, who averaged 27.2 points , 9.3 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and two steals in the six tournament games.
1990: Loyola Marymount (26-6)
Playing without star center Hank Gathers, who collapsed and died of heart failure during the semifinals of the West Coast Conference tournament, No. 11 Loyola Marymount’s high-scoring offense paced wins against No. 6 New Mexico State (111-92) and No. 3 Michigan (149-115) to reach the Sweet 16. After winning a physical game against No. 7 Alabama (62-60), the Lions lost to eventual national champion UNLV (131-101) in the Elite Eight. Guard Bo Kimble averaged 35.8 points in these four games, twice cracking the 40-point mark.
1999: Gonzaga (28-7)
The team that started it all: No. 10 Gonzaga beat No. 7 Minnesota (75-63), No. 2 Stanford (82-74) and No. 6 Florida (73-72) to reach the Elite Eight before a narrow loss to No. 1 Connecticut (67-62), the eventual national champions. The Bulldogs had never won a tournament game before 1999 but have not missed a tournament since.
2006: George Mason (27-8)
Like Gonzaga, the Patriots didn’t even own a tournament win before making a memorable run to the Final Four. An at-large No. 11 seed after losing in the CAA semifinals, George Mason became the first mid-major program to reach the Final Four since UNLV in 1991 with a memorable overtime win (86-84) in the Elite Eight against No. 1 UConn, the tournament’s top overall seed.
2008: Davidson (29-7)
Davidson’s run to the Elite Eight as the No. 10 seed in the Midwest Region served as America’s introduction to guard Steph Curry, who put on a show: Curry scored 40 points against No. 7 Gonzaga (82-76), 30 against No. 8 Georgetown (74-70), 33 against No. 6 Wisconsin (73-56) and another 25 in a close loss to No. 1 Kansas (59-57). The Wildcats hadn’t won a tournament game since 1969 and haven’t won another since.
2011: VCU (28-12)
VCU barely squeezed into the field, and only then by virtue of the First Four round, which made its debut in 2011 — and even then, the Rams’ inclusion in the field was heavily debated on Selection Sunday. But VCU and second-year coach Shaka Smart would win five straight tournament games to become the first of only two First Four teams to reach the Final Four. After going 5-6 to end the regular season, the Rams would win four games by double digits, including a 71-61 win against No. 1 Kansas, before losing to fellow mid-major program Butler (70-62) in the Final Four.
2013: Florida Gulf Coast (26-11)
Almost a decade before Saint Peter’s, FGCU became the first No. 15 seed to advance out of the opening weekend. With a high-flying, dunk-happy offensive scheme, the Eagles shocked No. 2 Georgetown (78-68) and then topped No. 7 San Diego State (81-71) to reach the Sweet 16 in the program’s tournament debut.
2022: Saint Peter’s (21-12)
A loss to Siena on Feb. 20 dropped Saint Peter’s to 12-11, 10-6 in MAAC play. The Peacocks have gone more than a month without another loss. After claiming the conference championship to earn an automatic postseason bid, Saint Peter’s scored one of the monumental upsets in modern tournament history by beating No. 2 Kentucky (85-79) in overtime. That was followed by a win against No. 7 Murray State (70-60), making the Peacocks just the third No. 15 seed to advance to the Sweet 16. Topping the Boilermakers made them the first such seed to make the Elite Eight.
Follow colleges reporter Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg