The Fairleigh Dickinson Knights lost a heartbreaker in the Northeast Conference (NEC) tournament 66-67 to the Merrimack Warriors with the two teams respectively finishing with records of 19-15 and 18-16.
Due to an NCAA rule preventing schools transitioning from Division II to I from participating in even the play-in games, Merrimack wouldn’t have been eligible for the Round of 64 regardless of the fact that they won the NEC. The Warriors finished the season with an impressive 11-game winning streak.
Fairleigh Dickinson will essentially play in Merrimack’s stead tomorrow at 6:40 p.m. The Knights will face Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) champions Texas Southern, who ran the table in the SWAC tournament despite a pre-tournament season that culminated in a 11-20 record. The Tigers come into the Big Dance on a hot streak while being just the third 20-loss team in history to make the tournament.
FDU On Offense
They’re a very balanced scoring team, and here’s a fun pattern I noticed: these players all wear jersey numbers 1-5 in a fashion where not a single one of them is wearing their rank in PPG.
FDU Leaders (PPG)
|Joe Munden, Jr.
The Knights shoot well by and large and their adjusted offensive efficiency is a respectable 155th at 106.2, but it cannot be ignored that they are entering the tournament as the literal shortest team in division one men’s basketball. They take care of the ball well, but a lot of the teams on their schedule have also been on the shorter side and still manage to block a Knight’s shot on exactly one of out ten possessions, 280th in the country.
Even Texas Southern is in the upper half of average height in college basketball; if and when the Knights beat the Tigers, how will they thrive offensively against a team with Purdue’s length and ability to close out shots? I don’t think there’s a serious answer there.
Another thing with their undersized team: nobody averages over five rebounds per game. Yikes.
FDU On Defense
There is no way to sugar coat this: Fairleigh Dickinson is simply one of the worst defensive teams in college basketball. This is where the size difference against literally any other team they could possibly be playing becomes a huge problem. I’m not even going to make any attempt at analysis here, I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves.
Their adjusted defensive efficiency: 118.4, ranked 361st. That’s out of 363 teams in men’s division one hoops.
They allow an effective field goal percentage of 55.8 (357th).
In that effective FG%, the Knights allow opponents to knock down 36.9% of threes (329th) and 56.1% of two point attempts (353rd). Add in the fact that they commit a decent amount of fouls and their opponents hit 75.6% from the stripe (341st) and this is going to be a long shot for a team that, let’s be honest, is kind of lucky to be here.