March Madness Stunner: No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson (+23) beats No. 1 Purdue in biggest NCAA tournament upset ever

By Zachary Cohen  ( 

March 17, 2023 08:09 PM

Fairleigh Dickinson Knights beat Purdue Boilermakers in biggest upset in March Madness history

For the second time in the history of the NCAA tournament, a No. 16 seed has eliminated a No. 1 seed in the Round of 64. In 2018, it was the UMBC Retrievers that downed the top-seeded Virginia Cavaliers, 74-54. This time around it was the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights that earned a 63-58 win over the Purdue Boilermakers. The Knights were 23-point underdogs on Friday, March 17th and could have been had at +2000 on the moneyline before the game. This is now the biggest upset in the history of the NCAA tournament.  

Fairleigh Dickinson, which went 4-22 one season ago, was just 20-15 entering this game, and the team didn’t even win its conference tournament to make it to March Madness. Merrimack College was the true Northeast Conference Tournament champion, but the team was ineligible for postseason play. That gave the Knights the opportunity to live another day. That obscure domino effect resulted in the Boilermakers getting bounced early.

Purdue was 29-5 heading into this game and was the eighth-ranked team in our VSiN Team Power Ratings. The Boilermakers had one of the best players in the country in center Zach Edey, who was averaging 22.3 points, 12.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game entering this contest.

Edey, who stands at 7-foot-4, had a nine-inch height advantage over the tallest player on Fairleigh Dickinson’s roster — which happens to be the smallest in the nation — but the Boilermakers couldn’t take advantage of that. Fairleigh Dickinson did a fantastic job of making it difficult on Purdue to get the ball into the post in this one.

The Knights sent all sorts of help in Edey’s direction, which made it nearly impossible for the Boilermakers to get him the ball. And when he did, the Fairleigh Dickinson guards were there to collapse and make his life miserable. That could have been avoided if Purdue shot the ball a bit better, but the Boilermakers were 5 for 26 from deep and the Knights were daring them to shoot.

Purdue head coach Matt Painter has often been criticized for his struggles in March Madness, but this is a new low for him and his program. However, there is some good news. When Virginia became the first team in NCAA history to lose in the first round as a No. 1 seed, Tony Bennett’s team came back and won the tournament a year later. Perhaps this will light a fire underneath the Boilermakers and lead to some special things next year.

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