March Madness always has some wild twists and turns in store, and this year has been no different. The most extraordinary Cinderella story of the 2023 tournament has been 16-seeded Fairleigh Dickinson University. FDU won their game against one-seed Purdue 63-58.
In the round of 64, FDU faced the daunting task of squaring off against the one-seed Purdue Boilermakers. Just a few years ago, the victor of this 16 vs. 1 game was almost a foregone conclusion. But this time, FDU thought they saw a chink in the armor of one of the best teams in the nation. FDU Coach Tobin Anderson went viral before the game for a comment made in the team’s locker room, shared by Clutch Points. He told his players:
“The more I watch Purdue, the more I think we can beat them. Let’s go shock the world…enjoy this one, be humble.”
While many wondered if this may become an inspiration to a Purdue team who did not need a chip on their shoulder. Clearly this quick anecdote sparked a fire in the hearts of the Fairleigh Dickinson team. After the win, Anderson alluded to that pre-game talk, saying:
“We just have faith in what we do, our guys are so tough and so competitive, you know, I’ll do a better job in this locker room speech than the last one…it was the right message, wrong audience.
“But listen, I love our guys, they’re tough, they’re gritty, they play their tails off, that’s an unbelievable win. We just did something that’s unbelievable, we just shocked the world and couldn’t happen to a better group of guys, a better bunch of fans, the family, the whole thing, we are ecstatic, we gonna stay in Columbus, I love it!”
Another interesting twist came into play due to the NCAA’s rules on March Madness Eligibility. A technicality was the only reason that FDU was given this place in the tournament after being defeated by Merrimack in their conference tournament. The Baltimore Sun explains:
Fairleigh Dickinson didn’t even win the Northeast Conference Tournament, falling by one point in the title game to Merrimack, which couldn’t participate in the NCAA Tournament because of an NCAA rule that bars it from the postseason because it’s still completing its four-year transition from Division II.
Anderson also ensured that his players did not rest on their laurels following that David vs. Goliath victory. He told them immediately after the game that their work still needed to be completed. There are still more rounds in March Madness, and Anderson intends to take his boys to the end. He said:
“We just made history, boys … college basketball history, for this whole school. We’re playing pretty damn well now. Hydrate, do all the stuff you do, the ride is not over yet.
“We can do something more.”
Fairleigh Dickinson will face the Florida Atlantic Owls on Sunday night at 7:45 EST in the round of 32. Even though they started as a relatively unknown commodity in this tourney, FDU will undoubtedly be a fan favorite as they play this game.
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