UNC Ends Saint Peter's Cinderella Run; Will Face Duke in 2022 Men's Final Four

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVMarch 27, 2022

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - MARCH 27: Caleb Love #2 of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts during the first half of the game against the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Elite Eight round game of the 2022 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Wells Fargo Center on March 27, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

The stage is now set for perhaps the biggest installment of college basketball's biggest rivalry.

North Carolina ended Saint Peter's Cinderella story as the No. 8 Tar Heels beat the 15th-seeded Peacocks 69-49 in the Elite Eight of the NCAA men's basketball tournament Sunday.

As a result, Carolina will play Duke in the national semifinals, the first time the schools have faced off in the NCAA tournament. For the Tar Heels, it's an opportunity to once again spoil Mike Krzyzewski's final season with the Blue Devils.

A tournament that has seen a number of unexpected upsets will have four mainstays making up the semifinals.

Jeff Goodman @GoodmanHoops

Duke, Kansas, Villanova and Cinderella North Carolina. <br><br>The Ultimate Blueblood Final Four.

Jeff Borzello @jeffborzello

Duke. North Carolina. Villanova. Kansas.<br><br>- Four of the last six national titles<br>- Seven of the last 13 national titles<br>- Three of the four winningest programs in history<br>- 61 combined Final Four appearances<br>- 17 combined national championships

Notable Performers

Armando Bacot, F, North Carolina: 20 points, 22 rebouds, one assist, two blocks

Brady Manek, F, North Carolina: 19 points, eight rebounds, one assist

Caleb Love, G, North Carolina: 14 points, four rebounds, four assists

Daryl Banks III, G, Saint Peter's: seven points, two rebounds, two assists, one steal

North Carolina Overwhelms Underdog

Armando Bacot only had eight points in the first half, but he had been by far the most dominant player in the game to that point. His 15 rebounds were only four short of the overall total for Saint Peter's, and he had five boards on the offensive glass.

The Peacocks had no answer for the 6'10" forward inside.

FOX College Hoops @CBBonFOX

Bacot is itching to have a field day as <a href="https://twitter.com/UNC_Basketball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@UNC_Basketball</a> gives St. Peter’s their biggest deficit of the tournament! 🤑<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/MarchMadnessMBB?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MarchMadnessMBB</a>) <br> <a href="https://t.co/JULFzPFvby">pic.twitter.com/JULFzPFvby</a>

NCAA March Madness @MarchMadnessMBB

Love to Bacot connection 🔥<a href="https://twitter.com/UNC_Basketball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@UNC_Basketball</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MarchMadness?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MarchMadness</a> <a href="https://t.co/SJZ0Gnxg2H">pic.twitter.com/SJZ0Gnxg2H</a>

Brady Manek's three-point shooting and Caleb Love's work off the dribble were helping to pace the offense.

This was a one-sided game from start to finish as North Carolina showed no mercy toward the sentimental favorite.

Evan Barnes〽️ @evan_b

UNC’s just grown-manning Saint Peter’s. Better athletes, shotmakers, defense….it’s just countdown to midnight for that glass slipper to break.

And unlike their overtime victory over Baylor, there was no steady collapse from the Tar Heels to gift Saint Peter's a second chance. They did take their foot off the gas midway through the second half, but there was never much doubt about the outcome.

Chris Williamson @CWilliamson44

UNC ain’t score a field goal for 6 minutes and St. Peter’s ain’t take advantage.

Looking ahead to the next round, North Carolina is unlikely to see the kind of defensive press the Peacocks deployed once they had nothing to lose. But Hubert Davis might be a little concerned with how much his offense sputtered down the stretch.

Offense Dries up for Peacocks

Field-goal percentage offered a worrying trend for head coach Shaheen Holloway. The Peacocks shot 50.9 from the field in their first-round upset over Kentucky. That number dipped to 41.5 percent in the second round against Murray State and then 38.9 percent in the Sweet 16 against Purdue.

Saint Peter's no longer had the element of surprise, and there was only so much Holloway and his staff could do to scheme around the talent gap.

On Sunday, it quickly became apparent the Peacocks' Cinderella story entering its final chapter. North Carolina scored the first nine points of the game, and Saint Peter's first field goal didn't arrive until 4:08 into the contest.

Pat Forde @ByPatForde

Saint Peter’s raised the ceiling for what a 15 seed can do. It didn’t remove the ceiling.

By halftime, the Tar Heels doubled up their opponents, 38-19.

CBS Sports @CBSSports

"It's been that kind of night for Saint Peter's." <a href="https://t.co/Iy8VLUbezY">pic.twitter.com/Iy8VLUbezY</a>

Mitch Sherman @mitchsherman

Saint Peter’s looks like a team from the MAAC going up against North Carolina.

One loss doesn't nullify the most improbable run ever in the NCAA men's basketball tournament. A few weeks ago, Saint Peter's was a nonentity to the vast majority of fans. It took just three games for the Peacocks to crack the national consciousness.

What Holloway and his players achieved won't be soon forgotten.

What's Next?

Duke and North Carolina split their two previous meetings this season. The Blue Devils will want to exact some revenge on their rivals after the Tar Heels handed Coach K a defeat in his last game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.