In the truly shocking first upset of March Madness 2022, a Kentucky Wildcats team that many slice fillers and domestic watchers had pegged for a Final Four appearance (at a minimum) fell to the 15th seeded Saint Peter’s Peacocks 85- 79 in overtime on Thursday at Indianapolis.
Of ESPN’s 54-person panel, 37 helped the Wildcats reach the Final Four, with a selection of those picking Kentucky to win what would have been the program’s ninth national title. As it stands, the 2022 NCAA Tournament will be without one of its perennial blue bloods, further challenging what is now seen as a very open slice of the Eastern Region and prompting an offseason of questions. milestones for head coach John Calipari and his program.
With the historic loss now on the books, ESPN’s team of Myron Medcalf, Jeff Borzello, John Gasaway and Joe Lunardi reflected on the reasons for and significance of Kentucky’s loss, projecting just how far the Peacocks can go. and what the Wildcats could look like in the 2022-23 college basketball season. Follow this link for peak NCAA tournament times and visit here to check your March Madness slot.
What sank Kentucky in their loss to Saint Peter’s?
The Wildcats lost the battle on the perimeter. The Kentucky guards offered very little offense throughout the game: TyTy Washington Jr. shot 2 for 10, Kellan Grady was 1 for 9 (though the one who nearly gave Kentucky the victory in regulation) and the Peacocks’ decision to go zone at key times prevented Sahvir Wheeler from going down and creating plays for himself and his teammates. Offense has too often turned to throwing the ball at Oscar Tshiebwe and hoping for the best – and while Tshiebwe has been the country’s best player this season, he’s not at his best trying create his own low post attack. As a team, Kentucky shot 4-for-15-of-3. Meanwhile, Saint Peter’s made nine 3-pointers and shot 53% from behind the arc. Doug Edert and Daryl Banks III played with a ton of confidence and were able to shoot against the Kentucky defense.
Even with all that, Kentucky had plenty of chances to win, but the nail in the coffin was a free throw in overtime. The Wildcats shot 1 for 6 from the boards in the extra period, failing to extend their lead after taking a four-point advantage in the opening minutes. On the other hand, Saint Peter’s made 18 of their 21 free-throw attempts, nine in overtime. –Jeff Borzello
What are the historical implications of the loss of Kentucky? Where does this rank on the list of disappointments for Wildcats fans?
This tops the list in terms of shocking upsets. John Calipari was previously perfect in the Round of 16 as Kentucky’s head coach. The Wildcats lost in early 2004 as the No. 1 seed, but that was to UAB in the Round of 16. like the Blue Devils, it’s not quite the same as falling to 15th seed Saint Peter’s. Kentucky fans have their stories of heartbreak, of course, but the Wildcats have generally performed well against their seed in the Calipari era. Losing to the Peacocks must rank very near the top for disappointing upsets in UK NCAA Tournament history. — John Gasway
What does this mean for the Eastern region? Who is the favorite now?
Definitely. I never would have thought we even had to consider this after the first round. But I would call Baylor, fully acknowledging that Purdue and UCLA likely feel confident about their respective chances of getting out of the region and reaching the Final Four. I also think the sleepers in this area are much more interesting now. Winner Murray State-San Francisco and Saint Mary’s cannot be counted in this conversation.
Kentucky was unique. He had the most dominant force in the sport with Tshiebwe, likely the Wooden Award winner, in the paint. At its best, Kentucky was an offensive rebounding monster that could turn those second chances into key opportunities for the SEC’s most effective offense. I think the rest of the region is full of flawed teams, so Baylor’s chance to make a Final Four comeback — the Bears recorded 139 points per 100 possessions in Thursday’s win over Norfolk State — just to augment. By many, I think. — Myron Medcalf
What is the ceiling of Saint-Pierre? Can the Peacocks win another game?
They need an opponent first, a certain mid-major emerging from the Murray State-San Francisco portion of the East bracket. But that’s tomorrow’s story. Today it’s Saint Peter’s, who are now looking to become the third No. 15 to reach the Sweet 16.
Why not? Are the Peacocks more of an underdog than Oral Roberts? ORU pulled off the same trick… last year! And the Golden Eagles had to defeat rising Florida in the second round. The Peacocks won’t face a team that physically overwhelms them, and they certainly won’t be scared after going head-to-head with a much stronger than ORU 2 seed with Ohio State (not to mention any Big Blue Nation!).
I would give Saint-Pierre at least a one in four chance of advancing. Maybe even a one-in-three chance depending on whether the opponent is San Francisco and Dons center Yauhen Massalski sits out with a recurring knee injury. -Joe Lunardi
Who does Kentucky have back? What will the Wildcats look like next year?
With the portal and the extra year of eligibility due to COVID, it’s nearly impossible to say what teams will look like in a month, let alone seven months. But Washington is likely a lottery pick and Tshiebwe will be drafted if he leaves this season, so let’s assume both leave. Davion Mintz and Grady are seniors, so they left too. The big question is Shaedon Sharpe, arguably the No. 1 prospect for the Class of 2022 who graduated early and enrolled at Lexington for the second semester. He would be a top 10 pick if he eventually leaves, but he looks legitimately up in the air. A possible projected roster, without Sharpe, would include returning starters Wheeler, Keion Brooks Jr., five-star rookies Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston — as well as Jacob Toppin or returning five-star prospect Daimion Collins. More likely, Calipari will return to the transfer portal and find at least two or three players to reload and make another run. — Borzello