The gathering of the Peacock Nation in Jersey City was thrilled beyond belief when "Saint Peter's" finally danced across the projection screens showing the NCAA Selection Show on CBS.
Their Saint Peter's Peacocks (20-13) earned the Southwest Region's No. 14 berth and are headed to Chicago to face the No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers (25-7) this Friday night.
The mood was much more somber across the river in Brooklyn, where the Long Island Blackbirds (27-5) learned that their second-best season in school history was only good enough for a trip to Charlotte as the East Region's No. 15, with No. 2 North Carolina waiting for them in their own backyard.
Oh, what a difference one game makes.
That game apparently occurred on November 27, Saint Peter's first home game of the 2010-11 season.
After losing three of their first four road games, the Peacocks prepared to do battle against an opponent with a perfect 4-0 record and averaging 87.75 points per game. Saint Peter's seemed prepared for the task, having held their opponents to just 57.75 points per game, including a 50-49 upset victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide at the Paradise Jam.
The Peacocks grounded the high-scoring Blackbirds that day, 65-62. Saint Peter's won 18 more times to earn their third-ever MAAC Championship, their first 20-win season in two decades and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Long Island would win 23 of their next 27 games to finish 27-5 and win the NEC Championship for their automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Apparently, the NCAA Selection Committee values defense over RPI ranking.
Saint Peter's has maintained their defensive prowess all season long, limiting their opponents to just 59.9 points per game, currently 12th best in the nation. Their 37.4 field goal percentage is second best in the nation, despite having the eighth-lowest RPI among the 68-team tournament field (No. 93). The Blackbirds are four teams above the Peacocks, with a higher RPI (No. 75).
As Saint Peter's heads to the Windy City thinking upset, Long Island heads south hoping not to be blown out.
It's the stuff that March Madness is made of.
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