College Hoops

Breaking down the historic upset of No. 16 FDU over No. 1 Purdue

Breaking down the historic upset of No. 16 FDU over No. 1 Purdue

It took 33 years for a 16-seed to knock off a 1-seed: when UMBC beat Virginia in the 2018 NCAA tournament. It only took five years for a second 16-seed to do it, with Fairleigh Dickinson stunning the country by beating Purdue in the first round on Friday night, 63-58.

While UMBC made history as the first 16-seed to beat a 1-seed, Fairleigh Dickinson took it one step further: The Knights are the first 16-seed from the First Four to do it.

After beating Texas Southern in Wednesday’s First Four matchup, head coach Tobin Anderson made a pronouncement that set the stage for Friday’s monumental upset.

“The more I watch Purdue, the more I think we can beat them,” he told his team in the locker room.

So how did the Knights do it? And where does this game rank in history? ESPN’s men’s college basketball experts Jeff Borzello, John Gasaway, Joe Lunardi and Myron Medcalf break all of it down. — Jeff Borzello

Were does this upset rank all time?

Myron Medcalf: Well, it’s the second 16-seed to ever beat a 1-seed, so it’s no lower than second. The Virginia team UMBC defeated was more distinguished and talented. A year later, the Cavs won the national title.

There were certainly Purdue doubters who questioned if Zach Edey had the support to advance to the Final Four. But Fairleigh Dickinson is No. 298 on KenPom right now. No. 298. This team has 12 losses to sub-200 KenPom teams. Twelve. And the Knights are only here because Merrimack was ineligible for the postseason due to its transition to Division I athletics.

When you factor all of that in, and you pit them against a team with the guy who is going to be the unanimous Wooden Award winner … This might be the greatest upset we’ve ever seen. Wow.

John Gasaway: This is the big one. Sure, fellow No. 16 seed UMBC beat Virginia by 20 in 2018. But look at the circumstances in 2023. The Knights lost the NEC title game to Merrimack. They entered the game below Louisville at KenPom. On paper, this is one of the weakest teams we’ve seen in the NCAA tournament in years. And, oh, by the way, they just made history. Forget the paper! Well done, FDU!

Jeff Borzello: Fairleigh Dickinson’s path to this game differentiates it. The Knights were one of the worst teams in college basketball last season, finishing 4-22 overall and ranking No. 345 at KenPom to end the 2021-22 season. Tobin Anderson, a coach with zero Division I experience, was hired in May. Ten months later, he has guided…

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