Talking Points

We'll remember St. Peter's wins long after we forget UNC's

A friend of mine once told me his theory that Patriots fans have it harder than anyone else since they alone expect every season to end with a Super Bowl victory — so any season that didn't was a crushing disappointment. It just goes to show that it doesn't matter how dominant your team is; fandom is suffering.

Bandwagoning a Cinderella college basketball team for a week or two in March lets you escape all that. You have no expectations since you know the teams they're playing are 10 times better than they are. Every win is gravy. And when they lose, as inevitably they must, you already knew it was going to happen. You can leave the emotional investment behind — and more importantly, smile when remembering them a few years later.

That's how we'll look back at Saint Peter's, which had just about everything you could want in a college basketball team. There was the colorful coach, Shaheen Holloway, who, when asked about how his team overpowered a bigger Murray State team, said, "I got guys from New Jersey and New York City. You think we're scared of anything?" There were eccentrics, like Doug Edert, a guard with a Buffalo Wild Wings NIL deal and a mustache of dubious quality who claimed to have never had a sandwich. They had the requisite scrappy backstory, making it to the Elite Eight by knocking off three teams they had no business beating, all while practicing in perhaps the worst facilities of any Division I basketball program.

Then they played North Carolina on Sunday. Armando Bacot, a forward for UNC, scored 20 points, pulled down 22 rebounds, and generally did whatever he wanted to Saint Peter's in a 69-49 win. In 40 minutes, perhaps the greatest Cinderella run the NCAA tournament has seen was washed away in the rain.

Why did I get emotionally invested in the basketball team of a school I had never heard of as soon as it looked like they had a shot of knocking off Kentucky? It's because we keep the dream alive in the smallest corner of our hearts that this will be the year that Saint Peter's, or whoever it is, wins the whole thing. But it never happens. At some point, the blue bloods step in and crush the upstarts, as UNC did to Saint Peter's. As if to rub it in, the Final Four this year is about as blue-blood as it gets: Kansas, Villanova, UNC, and Duke.

Good for them. But what sticks with me from these tournaments isn't who won, but the upsets. (Quick: Who won it all the year UMBC beat Virginia? The year Loyola Chicago made the Final Four? Trick question. Those were the same year; it was Villanova.) UNC and Duke and all the other blue bloods can do all the winning they want, and they usually do. But it's not as fun, and no one but their own fans will reminisce about it a few years from now.