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Fairleigh Dickinson blew out Texas Southern in the ‘First Four’ on Wednesday night. As a result, the Northeast Conference champions will have the distinct honor of trying to be the second-ever No. 16 seed to take down a No. 1 seed.
In this case, that top-ranked opponent will be Purdue.
It makes for one of the most unique matchups in the NCAA Tournament. The smallest team in the country will face the second-tallest player in the country in the First Round on Friday.
The Knights, which went 4-22 in 2021/22, have won 20 games in 2022/23. Their chances of a 21st win, though, are unlikely as the Boilermakers await their arrival in Columbus, Ohio.
A mismatch would be an understatement, but perhaps it will play in favor of the underdogs? Maybe?
Zach Edey, a consensus First-Team All-American and a finalist for the Naismith Trophy for Men’s Player of the Year, stands 7-foot-4. He is the second-tallest player in the NCAA Tournament, behind only Oral Roberts’ 7-foot-5 center.
His First Round opponents are, on average, more than a foot shorter.
Fairleigh Dickinson’s average height is 6-foot-1.4. It is the second-shortest team in college basketball since 2006, behind only Grambling State in 2009.
The tallest starter for the Knights during their win over the Tigers on Wednesday night was sophomore Ansley Almonor. He is 6-foot-6— 10 inches shorter than Edey.
Their backcourt is anchored by Demetre Roberts and Grant Singleton. The former is 5-foot-8, the latter is 5-foot-9.
They are each giving up more than a foot and a half to Edey.
Despite their vertical challenges, head coach Tobin Anderson isn’t worried. It’s nothing new.
We’ve heard that a lot, obviously, being the smallest team in the country. I look out there a lot of times and we look kind of the same as everybody else.— Tobin Anderson
For Almonor, it hasn’t quite hit him yet.
I don’t even think I’m going to realize that until I’ll actually be in the game and really see him. I’ve never seen anybody that tall in person. When I get to the game I’m going to see, oh yeah, this guy is really that tall.— Ansley Almonor
The height matchup makes things very interesting. Fairleigh Dickinson, Almonor in particular, shoots a lot of three-pointers and move the ball around with the best of them. Edey is going to have to leave the paint, which might allow the Knights to slip inside.
It’s a tall task for the No. 16 seed, literally. But maybe, just maybe, they are too small to guard?