COLUMBUS – The Fairleigh Dickinson Knights admit it won’t be easy to play Sunday on the heels of producing perhaps the biggest upset in college basketball history.
But even after Friday’s “life-changing” victory over Purdue – just the second time ever a No. 16 seeded defeated a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament – the Knights say they want to “keep dancing.”
“It’s hard to top what we did last night,” senior guard Grant Singleton said Saturday. “But we are just trying to keep a level head, stay humble about the situation. We have more things to do.”
The Knights will face ninth-seeded Florida Atlantic, which eliminated Memphis later Friday night at Nationwide Arena on Nick Boyd’s game-winning layup in the final seconds. The winner will advance to the Sweet 16 and play in Madison Square Garden in New York City, just a 15-mile drive away from the Fairleigh Dickinson campus in Teaneck, New Jersey.
“That would be incredible,” said first-year FDU coach Tobin Anderson. “I wouldn’t have to fly back to Jersey, I could take off running, like Forrest Gump or something.
“That would be beyond our wildest dreams, a bit like (the movie line from) ‘Hoosiers’ to do that. But we’ve got a lot of work in front of us.”
It’s already been a dream season for the Knights, who stunned Purdue 63-58 in the program’s first ever NCAA Tournament victory, not including Wednesday’s play-in win.
Entering Friday, 16-seeds were 1-150 in the opening round. Fairleigh Dickinson joined the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, which became the first men’s 16-seed to beat a No. 1 by knocking off Virginia in 2018.
“That whole game has changed everybody on our team – staff, students, everybody who (goes) to Fairleigh Dickinson University,” said forward Sean Moore, a Columbus native scored a career-high 19 points against Purdue. “Everything is different now.”
Anderson joked that he had 1,200 text messages that he hadn’t been able to respond to yet. The players added that their phones have been “blowing up,” as well.
“Hundreds of notifications,” said forward Ansley Almonor, who, at 6-foot-6, is the tallest player in the rotation for FDU, which has the shortest roster in Division I college basketball with an average height of 6-foot-1. “People texting me I haven’t heard from years. People texting me congrats. .. It’s crazy. I’ve never experienced anything like that.”
After Wednesday’s play-in win over Texas Southern in Dayton, Anderson was caught on camera telling his players in the locker room, “Let’s go shock the world” and beat Purdue.
He’s had another message for the Knights as they attempt to become the first 16-seed ever to advance to the Sweet 16.
“What we did last night was special – let’s go do something else that’s special,” he said. “We’ve got more to do. I don’t sense from us any sense of complacency or sense of satisfaction. We’re very loose. Focused but loose. … when the ball goes up tomorrow night, we’ll be ready to compete.”