New-look Saint Peter’s will try to bust brackets again 2 years after making NCAA Tournament history

In this Dec. 22, 2022 file photo, Saint Peter's guard Latrell Reid in action during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Maryland in College Park, Md. Reid is the last player left from Saint Peter's incredible run to the Elite Eight two years ago. He was a seldom-used reserve then, but he's now the No. 2 scorer for a team that looks very different in its return to the NCAA Tournament after a wave of transfers following the 2022 run. (AP Photo/File, Nick Wass)

In this Dec. 22, 2022 file photo, Saint Peter’s guard Latrell Reid in action during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Maryland in College Park, Md. Reid is the last player left from Saint Peter’s incredible run to the Elite Eight two years ago. He was a seldom-used reserve then, but he’s now the No. 2 scorer for a team that looks very different in its return to the NCAA Tournament after a wave of transfers following the 2022 run. (AP Photo/File, Nick Wass)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Saint Peter’s is back in the NCAA Tournament. But this Peacocks squad bares no resemblance to the one that shocked the country — and busted brackets — two years ago by reaching the Elite Eight as a No. 15 seed.

After a stunning run that included wins over Kentucky, Murray State and Purdue, a mass exodus ensued from the small Jersey City, New Jersey, school.

Head coach Shaheen Holloway left to take a job at Seton Hall and seven players, including stars Doug Edert, Daryl Banks and KC Ndefo, transferred to other schools that offseason. Two more players moved on last year.

Latrell Reid is the only active player remaining from that team — and he didn’t even play in any of the team’s three tournament wins.

“It is kind of hard for people to accept that we turned over,” Reid said. “We turned a new page. Immediately, of course, when people see me, they say, ‘Oh, Saint Peter’s!’ They always ask about Doug — are they still there? Or where are the other guys at? I tell them all the time, yeah, I still talk to all of them, but it’s a new team.”

Saint Peter’s is again a No. 15 seed this year after winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The Peacocks (19-13) will face second-seeded Tennessee in the first round Thursday in Charlotte.

Reid said the abrupt breakup of the team was tough to take, especially since he just transferred back home from Coffeyville junior college in Kansas.

“When I got here, I didn’t know anybody. But when we left, we were like family,” Reid said. “So watching all your brothers leave, you’re like, I’ve got to make new friends? Because those are the guys you’re with — especially since COVID was still kind of around, so we weren’t hanging out much. It was hard.”

Reid said the players still stay in touch, and the memories from that season will last a lifetime.

He laughs while looking back, recalling odd moments such as when one of the the team’s assistant managers was scolded by coaches for helping direct the Murray State band, which had taken on the role of playing for Saint Peter’s and supporting them during their upset win over Kentucky.

Murray State at the time was rooting for a Saint Peter’s upset win, not knowing they would become the Peacocks’ next victim in the second round.

Reid also remembers coaches yelling at players to stop celebrating and get in line to shake hands with Kentucky’s players after the upset.

“I think we definitely took everybody by surprise that year,” Reid said. “It’s funny, during our open practice I went back to my phone and people were saying we were a warmup game for Kentucky. And then when we beat them, they were like, hold on. It’s serious.”

Reid said that while the faces have changed, Saint Peter’s still plays the same way — the Peacocks rank 12th in the nation in scoring defense — under second-year coach Bashir Mason.

And he believes they have another chance to make another deep run.

“This team definitely has what it takes to compete with anybody,” Reid said. “It’s in our DNA. Our coaches instilled it in us. It’s the culture. So we definitely have a chance to do it. We just have to go out and perform.”

But he knows that because of the Saint Peter’s name, nobody will be overlooking them this time around.

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness

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