By any standard, the No. 15-seeded Saint Peter’s Peacocks’ first round overtime win over No. 2 seeded Kentucky was a huge upset. Sportsbooks favored Kentucky by 18 points. The Wildcats were seventh in the country in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margin, while the Peacocks ranked 107th. Only 10 times in tournament history has a No. 15 beaten a No. 2.
Using all of those metrics, though, 2018’s shocking win by No. 16 UMBC (166th in KenPom) over No. 1 Virginia (second in KenPom) as a 20.5-point underdog was a greater upset. Financially, however, the Peacocks’ win is officially the biggest upset on record.
In the 2019-20 school year, the most recent season unaffected by COVID-19, Kentucky outspent Saint Peter’s $18.3 million to $1.6 million in men’s basketball, per the U.S Department of Education. In terms of both expenditures ratio and raw difference between budgets, that is the biggest disparity since 2007, as far back as data is publicly available.
Kentucky outspends Saint Peter’s in basketball by a multiple of 11.7, just edging out the 11.5 ratio from CJ McCollum and Lehigh’s win over Duke exactly 10 years ago. Also near the top of the list are two recent Ivy League bracket busters, including Cornell’s 2010 win over Wisconsin, one of only two games after the first round in which the winner’s budget to loser’s budget ratio was at least 5.0. A pair of third round matchups, despite having lower ratios, qualified for the greatest upsets big board as instances where the winner spent at least $10 million less than the loser.
Kentucky was the second most extravagant spender in the 2022 March Madness field, topped only by Duke at $19.9 million, while Saint Peter’s was the fourth stingiest, coming in about $200,000 ahead of Ivy League representative Yale.
Amazingly, the ratio of the two schools’ total athletics expenses is even greater than that of their men’s basketball expenses. Kentucky shelled out $138.3 million for its sports teams in 2020 while Saint Peter’s spent just $7.2 million.
The size difference between the two schools is also stark. Kentucky’s undergraduate enrollment is 20,537. By contrast, only 2,190 students go to Saint Peter’s University, only 852 of which are men (2% of whom are on the varsity basketball team).