Fairleigh Dickinson pulled off the biggest upset in March Madness history, and the numbers prove it


Fairleigh Dickinson, a relatively unknown mid-major program from Teaneck, New Jersey, is now the proud owner of the greatest upset in March Madness history.

Yes, UMBC was the first 16 seed to ever topple a No. 1, but that improbable blowout win over Virginia in 2018 doesn’t stack up to what the Knights did to Purdue on Friday night.

The numbers back it up.

First, there is the NCAA rule that allowed FDU to make the big dance in the first place. Merrimack, not Fairleigh Dickinson, won the NEC Tournament championship, but because Merrimack has not completed its necessary four-year transition to Division-I, runner-up FDU was given the bid.

The Knights then had to beat Texas Southern in the First Four before going up against mighty Purdue, a team that won the Big Ten title, reigning supreme in a conference that sent eight teams to the tournament this year, with a ninth in Rutgers being considered a major snub.

Still, FDU pulled off the upset. Numerically, it looks even more incredible. First, per KenPom, Fairleigh Dickinson ranked 298th of 363 teams in the country this season, while the Boilermakers were fifth in the nation. On the television broadcast, the size differential between the two teams was brought up consistently, with the Knights harassing Purdue’s 7-foot-4 big man Zach Edey with double teams all night. That was a literal mountain for FDU to climb, as KenPom ranked the Knights dead last in the nation in collective height, while Purdue, thanks in part to Edey, ranked No. 1.

So, a Fairleigh Dickinson team sporting two players listed below 5-foot-10 were able to topped the biggest team in the country.

Then, there was the tune-ups before the tournament. For Fairleigh Dickinson, they faced very little competition relative to a tournament team all season. In fact, they had the easiest strength of schedule in the entire country, yet beat a team that at times this year was ranked tops in the nation in the AP poll.

Add it all up, and you have the biggest upset in March Madness history.

Follow Ryan Chichester on Twitter: @ryanchichester1

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