For the second time in men’s NCAA tournament history, a No. 16 seed has knocked off a No. 1 seed. The Fairleigh Dickinson Knights outlasted the top-seeded Purdue Boilermakers, 63-58, for the biggest upset in March Madness history. Purdue entered the game as a 23-point favorite after opening as a 25.5-point underdog at DraftKings Sportsbook. The only other time a No. 16 seed beat a No. 1 seed came during the 2018 tournament when UMBC defeated Virginia. UVA was a 20.5-point favorite entering that game.
The Knights were in control of the game the entire way. FDU scored the opening points of the game and led for most of the first half before going into the break with a one-point lead. A 10-0 Purdue run midway through the second half momentarily swung the game in Purdue’s favor, but the Knights eventually took the lead and held onto it thanks to their swarming defense.
Purdue won the Big Ten regular season championship, and the Big Ten tournament championship this season. The Boilermakers were led by 7’4 center Zach Edey, who is the heavy favorite to be named National Player of the Year. We ranked Edey as the best player in March Madness coming into the tournament.
This is a stunning result in every way. Here’s what you need to know.
Fairleigh Dickinson was the smallest team in the country, but they stifled Purdue anyway
The Knights ranked No. 363 out of 363 DI teams in average height, according to KenPom. FDU was not exactly known for its defense, finishing No. 359 in defensive efficiency in DI this season.
The Knights did not have a player taller than 6’6 in the rotation, yet somehow stunned the team led by a 7’4 superstar at center. You would not know Fairleigh Dickinson’s defense was so poor this season watching the game. FDU held the Boilermakers to 35.8 percent shooting from the field, and forced 15 turnovers.
Fairleigh Dickinson’s defense was dictating the action on every possession with traps with straight double-teams. Purdue looked very hesitant to shoot around Edey, turning down open looks throughout the second half. Purdue shot 5-of-26 from three on the night. FDU had 10 steals to three for Purdue.
Fairleigh Dickinson’s defense was the biggest reason they won this game.
Purdue struggled to get the ball inside to Zach Edey, and their shooters went cold
Edey finished with impressive numbers — 21 points and 15 rebounds — but one would think a 7’4 center destined to win the Wooden Award would have punished the smallest team in the country even more. Instead, Purdue’s perimeter players struggled badly with FDU’s ball pressure. They had to work just to get the ball across halfcourt on most possessions. They took away the entry passes Purdue tried to make to Edey, and often settled for shots from poor shooters. Edey only took one field goal attempt in the last 12 minutes of the game.
Freshman guard Braden Smith shot 1-of-6 from three. Forward Mason Gilles shot 1-of-7 from three. Other Purdue shooters were too scared to even let it fly.
It’s easy to blame Edey for this loss as the supposed best player in the country, but Purdue’s bigger issue was none of his teammates coming to play.
Fairleigh Dickinson didn’t even win their conference tournament
The Knights lost to Merrimack, 67-66, in the Northeast tournament title game. They had to beat Texas Southern in the play-in two days earlier just to force this matchup with No. 1 Purdue.
FDU went 10-6 in conference play this year. They had a 20-15 record entering the game against Purdue. FDU went 4-22 last season.
It’s the first time a team from the Northeast Conference has ever won a men’s NCAA tournament game.
Fairleigh Dickinson coach Tobin Anderson told his team they could beat Purdue in a viral clip
He was right.
Purdue punched a hole in their whiteboard after the loss
Fairleigh Dickinson’s win over Purdue is being hailed as the biggest upset ever
I do legit think that is the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history. FDU got into the NCAA Tournament not even winning its conference tournament. They were outside the top-300 in KenPom going into Tuesday’s game vs. Texas Southern. This is completely bonkers.
— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) March 18, 2023
Fairleigh Dickinson failed to win the tournament of the lowest-rated conference on Kenpom. They were the 68th team on the NCAA’s official seed list. They are the shortest team in all of Division I and they took down a 7-4 guy.
Greatest upset in college basketball history.
— Rodger Sherman (@rodger) March 18, 2023
Farleigh Dickinson, by any measure you look at, is objectively one of the worst teams in the country.
They are ranked 301st by the NET Rating, 299th by Ken Pomeroy’s Ratings, 307th by the Sagarin Ratings, & 285th by the RPI
And they just became the second #16 seed to upset a #1
— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) March 18, 2023
Where is Fairleigh Dickinson?
FDU is in Morris County, New Jersey, bridging the towns of Florham Park and Madison.
The Knights now play the winner of the 8-9 game between Memphis and Florida Atlantic in the round of 32.
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