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How does the 2023 Princeton team compare to last year’s Saint Peter’s squad?

We compare the the Jersey teams as Princeton attempts to repeat St. Pete’s feat.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament - Elite Eight - Philadelphia Photo by Scott Taetsch/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

What are they putting in the water in New Jersey? Last season, the Saint Peter’s Peacocks made NCAA Tournament history with an Elite Eight run — the first No. 15 seed to ever make it that far. Princeton now threatens to do the same just one year later. How do these two teams compare to one another? We take a look at the Jersey Cinderellas ahead of Princeton’s matchup against Creighton.

Saint Peter’s

To refresh your memory, Saint Peter’s defeated No. 2 Kentucky, 85-79, in overtime, before moving onto No. 7 Murray State and winning 70-60. They became the first ever No. 15-seeded team to reach the Elite Eight after beating No. 3 Purdue 67-64, and fell to North Carolina in the next round, 69-49

At the time of the tournament, Saint Peter’s ranked 102nd at KenPom. They defeated teams ranked sixth (and 5th in adjusted offensive efficiency), 36th, and 14th (and 2nd in adjusted offensive efficiency) in order. Their strength of schedule was rated 137th, and they finished second in their conference with a MAAC record of 14-6 before winning the conference tournament.


Princeton has already taken down No. 2 Arizona, 59-55, and No. 7 Missouri, 78-63. The Tigers face No. 6 Creighton this week as they attempt to repeat Saint Peter’s feat from last season. Princeton ranked 112th at KenPom at the time of seeding, and defeated teams ranked 10th (and 4th in adjusted offensive efficiency) and 51st (and 10th in adjusted offensive efficiency).

Their strength of schedule was ranked 173rd, and they finished second in their conference with a 10-4 Ivy record before winning the conference tournament.

How do the two compare?

We’re seeing some clear similarities here — teams with highly-ranked offenses but defenses that were not in the same caliber seem to be the perfect target for these types of upsets. It’s also interesting that both teams finished second in conference play before winning their tournaments.

But ultimately, Saint Peter’s run came down to them making shots against defenses that underestimated their ability to do so, and making offenses bend to their will when the Peacocks were on defense. They studied opposing offenses and forced them to make shots that they were uncomfortable making. Their defense was actually ranked in the top 30 at KenPom — something Princeton is nowhere near on either side of the ball (the Tigers don’t crack the top 100 in adjusted efficiency, offensive or defensive).

Princeton has employed a somewhat surprising tactic. You often see lower-seeded teams commit to the three-point line, confident they won’t be able to go up against the front line of their opponents at the rim, but the Tigers are fearless in the paint. They absolutely dominated Missouri, out-rebounding them 44-30, and still hit 12 shots from the perimeter. They matched Arizona almost perfectly in rebound numbers, but recorded six blocks to the Wildcats’ one.

Another fun fact

Both teams’ head coaches led their own teams to improbable March Madness runs — Mitch Henderson was on the No. 13 Princeton team that upset No. 4 UCLA (and reigning NCAA champion) in the first round in 1996, and Shaheen Holloway led No. 10 Seton Hall to the Sweet Sixteen in 2000.