No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson delivered a modern-day David vs. Goliath story Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, becoming the second No. 16 seed in March Madness history to defeat a No. 1 seed in a 63-58 shocker over No. 1 seed Purdue in the East Region.
FDU, the smallest team in college basketball, downed the Boilermakers, the largest team in the sport, by raining down 3-pointers, badgering Purdue big man Zach Edey and running the tempo up to pull-off the historic upset.
No. 16 seeds were previously 1-147 all-time in first-round matchups against No. 1 seeds coming into this year's tournament and 1-150 entering Friday after the other three No. 1 seeds in this year's bracket all advanced into the second round on Thursday. The only other No. 16 seed in tournament history to take down a No. 1 seed came in 2018 when No. 16 seed UMBC defeated No. 1 overall seed Virginia as a 20.5-point underdog, which set the bar FDU, a 23.5-point underdog, just cleared for the largest upset in tournament history.
Purdue has played tight games and largely prevailed much of the season -- it had a 10-2 record in games decided by five points or fewer coming into the tournament -- but FDU gave it no chance to improve upon that record. FDU led for more than 25 minutes of game time and stifled the Boilermakers defensively, holding them to just eight points over the final eight minutes of game action.
This interview with Tobin Anderson is everything ❤️ @FDUKnightsMBB— CBS Sports College Basketball 🏀 (@CBSSportsCBB) March 18, 2023
"That's unbelievable. We just shocked the world!" pic.twitter.com/9B7sUPzdbH
The Knights' victory comes one day after the five-year anniversary of UMBC's win over Virginia.
This is the second time in the NCAA Tournament that multiple teams seeded No. 2 or better have been bounced in the opening round after No. 2 seed Arizona also bowed out in the first round earlier in the week. Two No. 2 seeds -- Duke and Missouri -- were bounced the same day in 2012.
Fairleigh Dickinson was only in the NCAA Tournament on a technicality. The Knights lost to Merrimack in the NEC Tournament title game, but because Merrimack is still in the midst of transitioning to Division I, it was ineligible for the NCAA Tournament. Therefore, the NEC's automatic bid went to the Knights. Fairleigh Dickinson was the No. 68 seed in the 68-team field and had to defeat Texas Southern in the First Four just to advance and play the Boilermakers in the first round.
"We have faith in what we do and our guys are so tough and so competitive," FDU coach Tobin Anderson said.. "I love our guys. They're tough, they're gritty, they played their tails off. We just shocked the world."
Anderson earlier in the week in a locker room speech went viral after saying that after the more he watched Purdue on tape, the more convinced he was that his FDU team could beat them. The call proved prophetic Friday night, and Anderson after the game humbly expressed remorse for the interaction -- saying it was the right message but the wrong audience.
"The speech got overblown, you know," he said. "I'll do a little better job in this locker room speech than the last one."
Indeed, Anderson delivered on that promise with a fiery locker room speech that was equal parts energy and confidence.
"We outplayed them for 40 minutes. We were the better team for 40 minutes," he said. "Styles make fights, and our style was tremendous. You just made history, boys. You just made friggin history. College basketball history."
The style of the fight was only half of what made FDU's historic win so impressive. The Knights applied pressure with success defensively in forcing 16 turnovers and converting that into 16 points. They sacrificed their body in taking charges at opportune times, hounded Player of the Year frontrunner Zach Edey and rode what felt like a growing swell of momentum within the arena as the chances of its upset seemed more and more realistic.
"Holy Knights of Columbus. FDU is not going away!"— CBS Sports College Basketball 🏀 (@CBSSportsCBB) March 18, 2023
—@AndrewCatalon on @FDUKnightsMBB pic.twitter.com/uZ0Z4DyK5i
On offense, FDU made seven of their 23 3-point attempts while turning it over just nine times. Sean Moore was key in propelling them on that end of the floor, as he turned in 14 of his 19 points in the second half and buried a big 3-pointer late in the game that effectively served as the dagger.
MASSIVE 3 AND FDU ARE UP 5 pic.twitter.com/QX9xAofhbz— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 18, 2023
"Our style is hard to play against," Anderson said. "I'm sure Big Ten teams don't press as much. Our quickness, our speed, our style, our uptempo kind of hurt [Purdue] a little bit. Our guys defended their tails off and played great. We're happy to survive and advance and move on."