When the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic first came about, no one imagined that it would disrupt life for two years. Especially not athletes and sports. No one thought that the March 2020 NCAA Tournament would be derailed, and no one imagined the 2021 NCAA Tournament would be a vastly different and scaled-back experience.
So, when things finally got back to normal for the 2022 Tournament, excitement was not just for the teams, but also for a sense of returning to normalcy for both the fans and athletes.
Sports have a unique ability to give a sense of hope, despite any circumstance. To see such a massive tournament with roaring fans again seemed to underline a much needed sense of making it through the pandemic.
Fans crowded in stadiums, cheering on their teams, the excitement of basketball has been palpable throughout this tournament. That anticipation has been felt thoroughly by Rutgers fans.
If you follow Rutgers basketball, you will know about our comeback, despite the odds, and made it into the Tournament. Even though it was a disappointing loss (in double overtime) to the University of Notre Dame in our first game, the Rutgers men’s basketball team had an incredible run.
For greater insight and analysis on the basketball team, what happened, what went wrong and where the program should go from here, check out The Daily Targum’s sports section, where writers have extensively covered the basketball team.
Although we all would have loved to see the Scarlet Knights go all the way through the Tournament, the maybe more exciting story to come out of March Madness this year was the meteoric rise to fame of Saint Peter’s University’s basketball team, the Peacocks.
St. Peter’s is a small school with a significantly smaller budget for basketball than many of the teams it competed against. The team's first match against the University of Kentucky, for example, clearly illustrates this, as Kentucky massively outspent St. Peter’s in the basketball program — $18.3 million against $1.6 million. Then, the program beat Purdue and made it into the Elite Eight.
The Elite Eight is truly a showdown of the best basketball teams: St. Peter’s getting there is an inspiring feat on its own. Though the team ultimately lost to the University of North Carolina, its run and its getting into the Elite Eight is still inspiring and reminds us that we can never forget about the underdog.
What has been dubbed a true Cinderella story, for good reason, the underdog gives everyone else hope. If you are struggling with something or if you do not feel good enough, an underdog story can be motivating. Despite the obstacles, anything is possible.
St. Peter’s run also inspired a kind of New Jersey solidarity — from Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) loudly supporting the Peacocks to this very editorial, something about the Peacocks made New Jersey come together.
At Rutgers we know what it is like to be the underdogs, as we have seen our own men’s basketball team transform over these past few years with standout stars, senior guards Ron Harper Jr., Geo Baker and Caleb McConnell using these last four years to turn our basketball team into a powerhouse.
Even when people have underestimated our abilities, we have consistently shown the country what it means to chop (and exceed expectations).
Aside from that sense of solidarity, there is something vital to be gleaned from the Peacocks and their historic run. Perhaps the greater lessons to learn from St. Peter’s run is not purely basketball-related, but rather something that can inspire everyone — especially students.
St. Peter’s did not let its background, its apparent disadvantage, hinder the program from working hard and performing incredibly well. The Peacocks worked hard, remained dedicated and kept improving. Despite the team's loss, its run must inspire us because they never gave up, and they did not let the odds get them down.
Instead, the program blocked all of that out and excelled. While some might discount their run due to their ultimate loss, that would neglect so much of the good that has happened.
As we continue being students and contend with school work, social pressures or whatever else, it is sometimes easy to get overwhelmed. But we all have that underdog spirit within us.
Especially as we enter these last few weeks of the school year, we should use the Peacocks' run as a symbol for what we ourselves can do. Never give up, work hard and do not let defeat drag you down.
The fear of defeat cannot overshadow the amazing successes that will come through perseverance. Maybe some will remember the loss, but most will remember the fortitude and spirit of St. Peter's players.
We should always work hard, despite the odds and any disadvantages. St. Peter's reminds us to go after what you want. We are all collectively still chopping for St. Peter's.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 154th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.