Featured in this article:
  • The Peacocks were 18.5-point underdogs against Kentucky, going into a 85-79 overtime upset
  • This is the fourth-largest upset in the NCAA Tournament since 1985
  • St. Peter's +1400 to win the East

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The St. Peter’s University Peacocks basketball team logo on the side of a St. Peter’s University campus building on Friday, March 18, 2022 in Jersey City. Everyone was buzzing about tiny St. Peter's University Friday after its stunning NCAA tournament upset of Kentucky. (AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah)

There’s a new betting favorite to win the NCAA Tournament’s East Region.

Just once in NCAA Tournament history have all four seeds made the Final Four: In 2008 when Kansas, Memphis, North Carolina, and UCLA did. That will not happen this year as East Region No. 1 Baylor was upset in the Round of 32 by No. 8 North Carolina. The East is the only region to have lost its top seed entering the Sweet 16 and the new favorite to win it is No. 3 Purdue at +115.

Actually, Baylor wasn’t the betting favorite in the East, to begin with as No. 2 Kentucky was slightly, but the Wildcats were stunned in the first round by little Saint Peter’s, a private school of about 2,300 students located in Jersey City, N.J. It is one of 27 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States and the only one in New Jersey.

The Peacocks were 18.5-point underdogs against Kentucky in the 85-79 overtime upset. That marked the fourth-largest upset in the NCAA Tournament since 1985. The Peacocks followed it up Saturday by upending Murray State, which was an 8-point favorite, to earn a spot in the Sweet 16.

Baylor players Flo Thamba (0), Jeremy Sochan (1), Kendall Brown (2) and Adam Flagler (10)

Saint Peter’s is now +1400 to win the East and probably will be losing its head coach, Shaheen Holloway, as soon as this tournament is over. He’s a former star point guard and assistant coach at Seton Hall, also located in New Jersey, and that school has an opening with Coach Kevin Willard leaving for Maryland. The last two schools from New Jersey to reach the Sweet 16 – and people in New Jersey can’t bet on in-state schools – are Saint Peter’s this year and Seton Hall in 2000 when Holloway was the Pirates’ starting point guard.

Boilers May End Cinderella Run 

Next up for Saint Peter’s is third-seeded Purdue. The Big Ten hasn’t won a national title since 2000 and had nine schools in the 2022 Big Dance, most by far of any league, but is down to two now with Purdue and South No. 11 Michigan.

The Boilermakers will be making their fourth Sweet 16 appearance in the last five tournaments. Only Michigan and Gonzaga have made all five Sweet 16s in that span (since 2017). During the two first-round games, Purdue went 60-of-79 (.759) from the free-throw line while opponents were just 13-for-23. Purdue is now 19-0 this season when scoring over 80 points and has now won 40 straight games when doing so. Coach Matt Painter’s squad is -12.5 vs. Saint Peter’s.

On the other half of the bracket, it’s a pair of bluebloods in No. 4 UCLA (+210 to win region) vs. No. 8 North Carolina (+260) with the Bruins opening at -2. The big question for UCLA is an injury to Jaime Jaquez Jr., who left in the second half of the Bruins’ Round of 32 win over Saint Mary’s with an ankle injury. The junior averaged 14.0 points and 5.7 rebounds this season and it’s not clear yet if he will be ready for Friday’s game. That UCLA plays on Friday in Philadelphia instead of Thursday can only help.

“Jaime, if he can walk, he’ll play,” Coach Mick Cronin said.

It’s the first meeting between North Carolina and UCLA since December 2019 and UNC’s 30th Sweet 16 appearance, most in history.

James Guill

James Guill is a former professional poker player who writes fro GambleOnline.co about poker, sports, casinos, gaming legislation and the online gambling industry in general. His past experience includes working with IveyPoker, PokerNews, PokerJunkie, Bwin, and the Ongame Network. From 2006-2009 he participated in multiple tournaments including the 37th and 38th World Series of Poker (WSOP). James lives in Virgina and he has a side business where he picks and sells vintage and antique items.

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