The hours after Fairleigh Dickinson pulled off its upset of Purdue presented contrasting situations.
Congratulatory calls and text messages flooded the phones of coach Tobin Anderson and his players, with the Knights at the center of the college basketball world as the newest darlings of the NCAA Tournament.
FDU dominates social media. Fans across the country wanted to know more about Anderson and the small Bergen County school.
“I would personally say life changing,” forward Sean Moore said. “That whole game changed everything on our team, staff, students, everyone that goes to Fairleigh Dickinson University, everyone is different now.”
But while the Knights soak up the celebration, there’s another mission ahead that has a chance at a dream opportunity.
Two days after knocking down No. 1 seed Boilermakerssixteenth-ranked Fairleigh Dickinson will play at No. 9 Florida Atlantic in the second round of the East Region Sunday (7:45 p.m., truTV) at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
“Obviously it’s been a good day for us enjoying all the publicity and the fame for the win,” said Anderson, in his first season at FDU after leading Division II St. Thomas Aquinas to a 209-62 record over nine seasons. “Trying to adjust ourselves to the fact that we have to play a very good team tomorrow, Florida Atlantic. I was really impressed watching them”
Not that FDU needs any extra motivation, but another victory would mean something that seemed unthinkable even a week ago.
If the Knights can continue their run, they will book a trip to the Sweet 16, back home, at Madison Square Garden.
FDU has to fight the whirlwind of emotions it is already experiencing.
“It’s going to be tough,” Moore said. “We beat No. 1 team in the country. The NCAA Tournament will certainly be tough. I just need to put that game behind us and get back to business. There is still business to be done. We just have to put it behind us, celebrate later, just worry about tomorrow’s game.”
FDU captured the hearts of the college basketball world by showing its own collective heart against Purdue, which boasted more size and experience but couldn’t match the gritty and tenacious Knights.
Now the next challenge is FAU, which defeated the No. 8 Memphis in their first-round game. The Owls was 32-3 and went 18-2 against Conference USA competition. They play a more similar style to FDU than Purdue.
“They’re a real team,” Anderson said. “They are unselfish, they share the ball, a lot of interchangeable parts. You can see why they are a Top-25 team, and tough and strong and physical. They’re not as big as Purdue and some teams we’ve played, but they’re aggressive. It’s another challenge for us to compete. …They will be ready for us. That’s the one thing watching them play: They’ll prepare. We have to play well to compete.”
THE CLIMBHow Fairleigh Dickinson coach Tobin Anderson got here after 20 years in D-2 and D-3
Anderson said he didn’t sense any kind of complacency from his team. The Knights are hungry. They want more. Getting rid of Purdue wasn’t enough.
Fairleigh Dickinson has already shown the country how determined it is. But there is still more work to be done.
“Just staying focused and locked in,” guard Grant Singleton said. “It’s hard to top what we did last night. But we’re just trying to keep a level head, stay humble about the situation. We still have a lot to do. We want to keep dancing. So just stay tuned.”
The World’s Most Famous Arena Awaits. FDU needs another win.
“To have this opportunity is really special,” Anderson said. “And now, let’s see what can happen. And if we get a chance to go to the Garden and play in the Sweet 16, I don’t have to fly back to Jersey, I can jog back, run, be like Forrest Gump or something. That would be incredible.”