3 reasons FDU's win over Purdue is tourney's biggest upset ever
Fairleigh Dickinson shocked the world Friday night, stunning Purdue 63-58 to pull off the NCAA Tournament's second-ever 16-over-1 upset, following in UMBC's footsteps when it beat Virginia in 2018.
Yes, the Retrievers won by an eye-popping 20 points, but the Knights' monumental win was arguably more impressive.
Here are three factors that made the Fairleigh Dickinson-over-Purdue stunner the biggest upset victory in March Madness history.
Fairleigh Dickinson didn't win its conference tournament
For small mid-major leagues, the conference tournament is the deciding factor for who represents them in the Big Dance. However, Fairleigh Dickinson, which was the Northeast Conference's No. 2 seed in the regular season, lost the title game to No. 1 Merrimack thanks to a last-second free throw.
One issue, though. Merrimack is ineligible for the NCAA Tournament until 2024 under the governing body's rules about transitioning from Division II to Division I. As a result, Fairleigh Dickinson became the only mid-major team in the country to advance to March Madness despite losing its conference tourney.
Further, the Northeast was ranked as the country's worst conference by KenPom. The Knights weren't even the rightful winners of the lowest league in the sport yet still came out victorious over Purdue.
The nation's shortest team playing 7-foot-4 Zach Edey
Fairleigh Dickinson is the country's shortest team, per KenPom. The average difference between the Knights and the second-shortest squad is as large as the gap between second-last and 95th-last. The Knights' tallest starter is 6-foot-6, and they trot out two players 5-foot-9 or shorter.
Surely that lack of height would be a problem against Purdue's 7-foot-4 behemoth, Zach Edey. The runaway favorite for National Player of the Year was consistently guarded by players at least one foot shorter than him, yet he only mustered 11 field goals.
This was in large part due to head coach Tobin Anderson's strategy of double-teaming Edey before he caught the ball, then typically sending a third player his way if he caught it. A smart scheme outlasted sheer size Friday, but it seemed like an immeasurable advantage coming into the contest.
The largest betting spread of any upset win
The Knights were 23.5-point underdogs against the Boilermakers, marking the largest spread for an upset victory in NCAA Tournament history dating back to 1978, according to BetMGM's John Ewing.
Interestingly, UMBC's 20.5-point spread as the No. 16 seed only ranks third all time, sitting behind 15-seed Norfolk State in 2012. Even Saint Peter's, which stunned Kentucky last year, only had a 17.5-point difference.
Betting is obviously not the end-all-be-all when it comes to upset victories, but it does help paint the overall picture. Nobody expected Fairleigh Dickinson to come in and beat top-seeded Purdue, owners of the AP Poll's top slot for seven weeks this season. And yet, that's exactly what happened in the greatest March Madness upset of all time.
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