“What are they going to say now?”
St. Peter’s men’s basketball head coach Shaheen Holloway asked the question in response to doubters to conclude a television interview with a CBS reporter on the court of the Wells Fargo Center last Friday after his team defeated the Purdue Boilermakers 67-64 in the NCAA men’s tournament East Regional to become the only No. 15 seed to ever reach the Elite Eight.
The Peacocks, representing the small college—an undergraduate enrollment of slightly less than 2,400 students—from Jersey City, New Jersey, became the sentimental favorite of countless people across the nation after upsetting Kentucky, Murray State and Purdue before meeting up with the North Carolina Tar Heels on Sunday with a chance to go to the Final Four.
But their inspiring and emotional run came to an end, as the powerful Tar Heels dominated the Peacocks in 69-49 win. It set up a matchup and another chapter in college basketball’s biggest rivalry as North Carolina will face Duke on Saturday night in the Final Four at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans. It will be the first time the two Atlantic Coast Conference programs will meet in the NCAA tournament. They have played each other 257 times, with UNC winning 142 and Duke 117.
Duke reached Saturday’s set of games by defeating Cal State Fullerton, Michigan State, Texas Tech and Arkansas. UNC had victories over Marquette, Baylor and UCLA before knocking off St. Peter’s. UNC and Duke split the season series this year with Duke winning 87-67 on Feb. 5 on the road and North Carolina taking the rematch 84-71 on March 5 at Duke.
A loss by Duke on Saturday would be the final game for their longtime head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who’s retiring after this season. Krzyzewski, who turned 75 in February, has led Duke since 1980. The legendary coach has won five NCAA Tournament championships, the last in 2015, and has taken Duke to the Final Four 13 times.
UNC, whose most famous alum is Michael Jordan, is led by their first-year head coach Hubert Davis, a former Tar Heel player drafted by the New York Knicks with the 20th pick in the first round in 1992. The 51-year-old Davis played four seasons for the Knicks and ended his NBA career in 2004. He joined the UNC coaching staff in 2012 and succeeded legendary Carolina coach, Roy Williams, who retired after last season.
In Saturday’s other game, the Villanova Wildcats, who won the championship in 2016 and 2018 under future Hall of Fame coach Jay Wright, the former Hofstra coach from 1994-2001, will go up against the Kansas Jayhawks. The Jayhawks are guided by head coach Bill Self, who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017. Self and the Jayhawks are seeking their first championship since winning the 2008 title.