There have been six double-digit seeds to make the Final Four, and St. Peter’s – after a third straight stunning win Friday night, 67-64 over third-seeded Purdue in the East Regional semifinal in Philadelphia – is one win against North Carolina on Sunday from becoming the seventh.
Win or lose against the eighth-seeded Tar Heels, who dispatched East No. 4 UCLA, 73-66, it’s already worth considering whether the Peacocks’ run is the greatest Cinderella story since the NCAA expanded March Madness to 64 teams in 1985. The tiny school from Jersey City already is the first seed lower than 11 to reach a regional final.
One way to look at it is to add up the seeds that a team beat on its way to the Elite Eight. A pair of No. 11 seeds have beaten what adds up to “tougher” competition, but one was from the SEC, LSU in 1986, and the other was a semi-regular Midwestern power, Xavier five years ago.
Kent State in 2002 and Davidson in 2008 can match St. Peter’s with their wins over Nos. 2, 3, and 7 seeds, albeit in a different order. But there’s a huge difference between entering the tournament as a No. 10 seed and showing up as a No. 15 — a seed from which only two teams had previously even made the Sweet 16: Oral Roberts last year and Florida Gulf Coast in 2013.
These are the journeys of the double-digit seeds who have made regional finals.
11 – 1986 LSU (11): beat (6) Purdue, (3) Memphis State, (2) Georgia Tech, and (1) Kentucky*
11 – 2017 Xavier (11): beat (6) Maryland, (3) Florida State, (2) Arizona, lost to (1) Gonzaga
12 – 2002 Kent State (10): beat (7) Oklahoma State, (2) Alabama, (3) Pittsburgh, lost to (5) Indiana
12 – 2008 Davidson (10): beat (7) Gonzaga, (2) Georgetown, (3) Wisconsin, lost to (1) Kansas
12 – 2022 St. Peter’s (15): beat (2) Kentucky, (7) Murray State, (3) Purdue, vs. (8) North Carolina on Sunday
15 – 1999 Gonzaga (10): beat (7) Minnesota, (2) Stanford, (6) Florida, lost to (1) Connecticut
15 – 1990 Texas (10): beat (7) Georgia, (2) Purdue, (6) Xavier, lost to (4) Arkansas
16 – 2006 George Mason (11): beat (6) Michigan State, (3) North Carolina, (7) Wichita State, and (1) Connecticut**
16 – 2018 Loyola Chicago: beat (6) Miami, (3) Tennessee, (7) Nevada, and (9) Kansas State***
16: 1990 Loyola Marymount (11): beat (6) New Mexico State, (3) Michigan, (7) Alabama, lost to (1) UNLV
16 – 2001 Temple (11): beat (6) Texas, (3) Florida, (7) Penn State, lost to (1) Michigan State
17 – 2002 Missouri (12): beat (5) Miami, (4) Ohio State, (8) UCLA, lost to (2) Oklahoma
17 – 2021 Oregon State (1): beat (5) Tennessee, (4) Oklahoma State, (8) Loyola Chicago, lost to (2) Houston
19 – 2011 VCU (11): beat (6) Georgetown, (3) Purdue, (10) Florida State, and (1) Kansas****
19 – 2014 Dayton (11): beat (6) Ohio State, (3) Syracuse, (10) Stanford, lost to (1) Florida
20 – 2022 Miami (10): beat (7) USC, (2) Auburn, (11) Iowa State, vs. (1) Kansas on Sunday
22 – 2021 UCLA (11): beat (6) BYU, (14) Abilene Christian, (2) Alabama, and (1) Michigan*****
23 – 1997 Providence (10): beat (7) Marquette, (2) Duke, (14) Chattanooga, lost to (4) Arizona
33 – 2016 Syracuse (10): beat (7) Dayton, (15) Middle Tennessee, (11) Gonzaga, and (1) Virginia******
*LSU lost to (2) Louisville in the Final Four.
**George Mason lost to (3) Florida in the Final Four.
***Loyola Chicago lost to Michigan (3) in the Final Four.
****VCU also beat USC in a First Four game, and lost to (8) Butler in the Final Four.
*****UCLA also beat Michigan State in a First Four game, and lost to (1) Gonzaga in the Final Four.
******Syracuse lost to (1) North Carolina in the Final Four.
Incredibly, this is the fourth time that Purdue has been an upset victim for a double-digit seed going to the Elite Eight, and this one really has to sting for the Boilermakers, who headed to Philadelphia as the East’s lowest remaining seed, in search of their first Final Four bid since 1980.
Instead, Purdue is heading home once again, still with only three Elite Eight appearances (1994, 2000, 2019) – they’ve lost more games to regional finals-bound double-digit seeds in the past four decades than they’ve gotten there themselves.
Upsets can happen, obviously, including bigger ones like UMBC becoming the first and so far only No. 16 seed to topple a No. 1, and the sprinkling of No. 15s, including St. Peter’s, who have knocked off 2s. To then make the Sweet 16 is even more special, but again, you understand how it happens, where a team gets a shock win and their next opponent kind of thought they’d be facing that presumed title contender.
Purdue had all week to study up on St. Peter’s, a team that lost home games this season to St. Francis (N.Y.) and Rider. The Peacocks didn’t play a team seeded higher than fourth in their conference tournament, cruising past Fairfield and Quinnipiac before a 60-54 squeaker over Monmouth in the final. Regular season MAAC champion Iona got bounced in the conference quarterfinals in Atlantic City.
That the Boilermakers, out of what was the deepest conference in the country this year in the Big Ten, couldn’t take care of business against a squad that went a respectable but hardly dominant 14-6 in MAAC play? That’s a lot more surprising than Steph Curry scoring 40 against Gonzaga, 30 against Georgetown, and 33 against Wisconsin to carry Davidson to the 2008 Midwest Regional final, or LSU being able to score a pair of upsets on its own home court in the first two rounds in 1986.
This being the second straight year that a pair of double-digit seeds made it this far, you could fairly ask if it’s gotten easier, if the gap between the very top teams and the teams from 48-68 has closed. Maybe it has, but as much as that can explain UCLA and Oregon State last year (another explanation: the 2021 Pac-12 was underrated) and Miami this year, St. Peter’s ranked somewhere between 95 and 161 out of 358 Division I teams this season.
It’s not particularly close. This run from St. Peter’s is the most surprising string of upsets we’ve seen one team pull off in the NCAA tournament, and they’ve got a shot at another one Sunday against one of the greatest programs in the history of the sport.
Kilmarnock 2-1 St Johnstone
Kawhi Leonard’s return puts the Clippers back in the Western Conference hunt
It’d been nearly 16 months since LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard played an NBA game before Tuesday night’s preseason win over the Portland Trail Blazers. Leonard finished with 11 points in 16 minutes but, more importantly, looked to be fully recovered from the torn ACL he suffered in game four of the 2021 Western Conference semifinals against the Utah Jazz.
Last season the Clippers hung around through the first two months of the season with Paul George leading the way until he went down with an injury in late December. Paul missed over three months before returning at the end of March, but the damage had been done. The Clippers fell from the top five when George was healthy down into the play-in tournament, where they were eliminated, missing the playoffs just one year removed from the franchise’s first WCF appearance.
That’s all behind them now, because Leonard and George are back and healthy, making the Clippers a favorite in the West this year. Stacked up against the rest of the West, this LA team has the tools and depth to make a run at the Warriors’ western conference crown.
Of course, everything is predicated on Leonard’s ability to stay on the floor and be available in the postseason. Based on that notion, the Clippers have more than enough depth to compete with the best teams in the NBA. Over the last two years, head coach Tyronn Lue has proved that he’s more than a product of LeBron James. Lue can coach and has been labeled by many as the best coach in the league at adjusting.
LA should be able to go deep into their lineup, with 10 players receiving significant minutes on a given night. Having that depth should also help preserve Leonard and George through the long 82-game season.
In the backcourt alone, minutes will be tight with a six-guard rotation. Besides George, the Clippers have Reggie Jackson, Norman Powell, Terance Mann, Luke Kennard, and the newest addition John Wall as players that will battle for minutes on the floor. Leonard, Ivica Zubac, Marcus Morris Sr., Nicolas Batum, and Robert Covington comprise the Clippers’ frontcourt and should all see significant minutes, depending on the matchup. And many of these players can play multiple positions.
The road to winning in the NBA is rough, but those teams with depth are usually among the last left standing in the end. Sure, this league is about stars, but those stars also need to be surrounded by pieces that fit their game and what they do best on the court. The Clippers still don’t have a true starting point guard, as Jackson is more of a combo guard, but as we’ve seen in the past, he can certainly get the job done in big moments when called upon.
But again, none of this matters without Leonard on the court when it matters. Depth is fantastic — we just saw the Warriors and Celtics meet in the Finals possessing two of the deeper rosters in the association. Hopefully, there won’t be a need for too much load management in Clipperland this year, and Leonard can play at least 65 games. That’s a feat he hasn’t accomplished since he was in San Antonio.
Again, the main goal is to keep Leonard and PG-13 healthy enough to make a run in the playoffs. This is what the Clippers should be focused on heading into the 2022-23 campaign. You get to play a lot of bad teams through the course of an NBA season. These Clippers are good enough to beat most teams in this league. Against the top four or five teams in the NBA is where stars and depth will be most important. If the Clippers can get through the season primarily healthy, there isn’t any reason they can’t be right back in the WCF.
David Moyes ‘extremely relieved’ with West Ham’s win over Wolves after seeing Bruno Lage sacked
The Hammers picked up only their second Premier League victory of the season to move out of the relegation zone and are now looking to kick on when they face Anderlecht in the Europa Conference League tomorrow night.
Moyes has watched his side crawl out of the blocks in the League following a summer of significant overhaul, with eight new signings to bed in.
One report in the build-up to to the Wolves clash had suggested early pressure was beginning to build on the Hammers boss to arrest the alarming slump, but it was Lage who paid the price for his own team’s poor start as he was sacked by the Midlands club on Sunday.
“[I was] extremely relieved,” Moyes said. “Look what happened to the manager at Wolves, which was really unfortunate, and there was very little between our positions in the league.
“I’m not saying there’s no difference between my position at West Ham and his at Wolves, but certainly our league positions weren’t much different.
“But I think that’s what we’re seeing in football at the moment. An awful lot of changes. I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors at other clubs.
“At our club I’ve had great support from the owners, and everybody behind it. We think we’re trying to build something. Trying to make West Ham a consistent team in the Premier League. That isn’t an easy thing to do, but we’re trying to make a good fist of it.”
While the Hammers are only now showing signs of clicking into gear on the domestic front, in Europe, they have made a fine start with two wins from two group stage matches so far.
Victory in Belgium tomorrow would see Moyes’ side take a significant step towards sealing qualification for the knockout stage after Christmas and doing so early could afford the Scot the luxury of a dead-rubber amid the fixture pileup later in the campaign. Moyes, however, is taking nothing for granted.
“I wouldn’t in any way disrespect Anderlecht at all,” he added. “We’re away from home in Europe. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to do to come away and get results. Anderlecht are a proud club. They’ll see the chance of beating us and getting ahead of us in the group.
“But we’re going to play each other twice very quickly, and at the moment both us and Anderlecht look like the team with the most points. That could change. But [this week] is important. We’d like to win the group if we could. But, as I said last year, if we qualify and we’ve got European football after Christmas, that will be a real bonus for us once again.”
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