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#1 Purdue vs. #16 Fairleigh Dickinson | Matchups to Watch

The Boilers will lean on their size and offensive efficiency against the smallest team in Division 1 basketball

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament Championship-Penn State vs Purdue David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

After defeating Texas Southern in the First Four, #16 seeded Fairleigh-Dickinson earned the chance to take on the #1 seeded Purdue Boilermakers in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Knights feature a five out style offense that focuses on movement and keeping the lane clear to allow drives to the rim or force help for kick outs for open shots at the perimeter as they are the shortest team in Division 1 basketball with an average height of just 6’1.

Purdue will look to leverage their height advantage, with an average height of 6’5.5, to control the glass and get the ball inside for high efficient, quality looks from Zach Edey, Trey Kaufman-Renn, and Caleb Furst. Purdue will also look to control the tempo and get their defense set for that motion offense that FDU will try to use to get Purdue moving laterally before attacking the lane.

Let’s get into the ‘Matchups to Watch!’

1 | Zach Edey vs. Whatever Defensive Plan FDU Uses

Let’s be honest here, this is as big of a mismatch in terms of raw size as you may see in college basketball. Purdue is one of the tallest teams in the country, headlined by 7’4 Zach Edey but they also play a tall PF in Caleb Furst who is 6’10. The issue here will be what does FDU decide to do against Edey and Purdue to try and limit the scoring opportunities inside versus giving up too much from the outside.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament Championship-Penn State vs Purdue Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Now, that’s a question that every team has to make but when it is likely that the player charged with defending Edey at the start of the game may only be 6’7 and 215 pounds, in all liklihood FDU will either go to an aggressive double team from two passes away or will try to play a number of different zone defenses. In either case, Edey showed in the game against Penn State that he is learning how to score through or over double teams at a good rate. This is a game where, if Edey gets low enough post position, he can simply turn and get to his hook shot with little to no threat of being blocked or impacted.

Edey should get his no matter what and honestly he may be able to get another 30 and 20 game if he is on point and hitting his shots early.

2 | Braden Smith vs. Demetre Roberts

Demetre Roberts, all 5’8 of him, is a dynamic guard who ha shown a capability of being a dynamic scorer and facilitator all season as he has averaged 16.6 points and 4.3 assists. if he was 6’, he likely would have received mid-major consideration but instead started at Division II St. Thomas Aquinas with current FDU Head Coach Tobin Anderson. In their one game against a high quality, NCAA Tourney team in Pitt, Roberts struggled with only 8 points on 3/10 shooting and 5 turnovers.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Four-Fairleigh Dickinson vs Texas Southern Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Smith, who is Purdue’s shortest and quickest player on the roster, should be able to stick with the dynamic Roberts but his length for his size will also be beneficial. Smith has a 6’5 reach at only 6’ and that could pose problems for the Knight’s point guard throughout the game. Don’t be surprised to see Brandon Newman matched up on Roberts as well to put a bigger defender on Roberts at some point as well.

Where Smith will excel is where Roberts and Knights just seem to struggle and that is in the pick and roll. FDU has the 359th rated defense according to Kenpom (there are only 363 teams) and this game marks the largest disparity in the Kenpom era of offensive efficiency ranking (9th for Purdue) and defensive. That number is 350 to be exact.

3 | FDU’s Fouling vs. Purdue at the Free Throw Line

FDU is one of the most prevalent fouling teams in the tournament ranking 4th overall averaging 19 fouls per game this season that translates to allowing an average of 18.7 free throws per game. On the flipside of this, Purdue is one of the most fouled teams in the country led by Zach Edey on the inside where they average 15.3 free throws taken per game while only surrendering 11.1 (lowest in Division 1). If FDU wants to muddy up the game as much as possible, they may end up committing a lot of fouls to prevent Edey from easy scores inside and aggressive fouls trying to press the Boilers.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament Quarterfinals - Purdue vs Rutgers Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Purdue could realistically see itself at the free throw line upwards of thirty times in their round 1 matchup and shooting 74.3% as a team would translate to roughly 22 points. Look for Purdue to establish Edey inside early and often and for FSU to have to foul early on to prevent him from getting going early.


With a game already under their belt and little expectations for them to get past #1 Purdue, FDU may very well jump out to an early lead using their style of play that Purdue hasn’t seen much of this season. The issue will be getting Edey established inside and reading what the Knights’ defense is going to be doing and what tendencies that they will run. Once Edey gets himself established and the Boilers figure out exactly how to defend the FDU offensive attack, Purdue should start to pull away in the second portion of the first half.

Purdue: 83
FDU: 64