After coaching Fairleigh Dickinson to a first-round win over Texas Southern on Wednesday, Tobin Anderson shared a confident message with his team. In the locker room after the game, Anderson told his players, “The more I look at Purdue, the more I think we can beat them.”
Reaction to Anderson’s bold message was mixed. Some people applauded Anderson’s seemingly audacious belief in his players. Others thought Anderson sounded delusional and that his 16th-seeded squad had no real chance against top-seeded Purdue.
Anderson’s words were prophetic.
Despite having the shortest roster in the nation, with an average player height of 6’1″ according to the college statistics website Kenpom, the FDU Knights defense swarmed the Perdue Boilermakers and surprised the Big Ten champions to one of their worst offensive performed in the season. Purdue shot just 35.8%, including 19.2% (5-26) from beyond the three-point line. The Boilermakers recorded 16 turnovers against 15 assists, and while FDU wasn’t world-leading in offense, they did enough to record perhaps the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history.
FDU head coach Tobin Anderson on his message to the team
So what will be the encore? The Knights admit that beating this performance will not be easy.
“It will be difficult. We beat the number one team in the country,” junior forward Sean Moore said during Saturday’s press conference. “We just have to put this game behind us, get back to business. There are still things to do.”
Moore called the win “life-changing” and said his phone was still buzzing with well-wishes 18 hours after the final bell rang.
Sean Moore on how to feel Fairleigh Dickinson University map.
Friday’s win marked just the second time in NCAA Tournament history that a No. 16 seed has beaten a No. 1 seed, and the first since UMBC’s 2018 win over Virginia. While the Retrievers defeated the Cavaliers 74-54, they couldn’t come away with another tournament win, losing to Kansas State two days later.
The Knights will look to extend their Cinderella run on Sunday when they take on No. 9 seed Florida Atlantic.
“It’s hard to top what we did last night, but we’re just trying to stay even,” said Grant Singleton, a graduate guard who, like Anderson, transferred from Division II St. Thomas Aquinas College prior to this season. “Stay humble in the situation and we will have more to do. We want to keep dancing.”
“What we did last night was special,” Anderson says. “Let’s do something special too.”
Tobin Anderson on what it means to play in a Sweet 16 game
FDU has a fairly limited tournament history with just seven appearances and a 3-6 record heading into Sunday’s game. That’s a wider record than their next rival, Florida Atlantic. The Owls have made just two tournament appearances since joining Division I in 1993, and they won their first tournament game Friday when they beat Memphis 66-65.
Their game is scheduled for Sunday at 7:45 p.m.
The other New Jersey school in the men’s tournament, Princeton University, picked up a shocker of its own, opening the tournament with a win over Arizona, the No. 2 seed in the South Regional.
On Saturday, Princeton, 15thousand top seed in the region, upset Missouri 76-63 to advance to the Sweet 16 round and play on Friday.
Tobin Anderson says FDU is a great school and is very proud of what they have done for the school