Who does FDU play next? It's FAU, and here's our preview & prediction for Sunday's game
The Fairleigh Dickinson basketball team is one win away from a most triumphant homecoming – a spot in the NCAA Tournament's East Regional at Madison Square Garden.
Standing in the way of the most improbable Sweet 16 berth in Big Dance history: Florida Atlantic.
Yes, it’s FDU vs. FAU in a Round of 32 matchup Sunday (7:45 p.m., truTV) that is the very essence of March Madness.
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Here’s a quick primer on the 16th-seeded Knights (21-16) vs. the 9th-seeded Owls (32-3) in Columbus, Ohio.
3 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT FAU
1. A new face on the scene: The program was founded in 1988 and moved up to the Division 1 ranks in 1993. This is its second NCAA Tournament, with the first coming in 2002. Friday’s 66-65 first-round win over eighth-seeded Memphis marked the Owls’ first Big Dance triumph.
2. Probably under-seeded: With a Kenpom of 22 and a NET of 13, and ranked inside the top 40 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, not to mention 30-plus victories, the Owls should have been a No. 6 or No. 7 seed. The Conference USA champions have won eight straight games and are 15-3 away from home, including a victory at Florida.
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3. Jersey boys: Sophomore guard Nick Boyd, who attended St. Mary High School in Rutherford, averages 9.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists and hit the game-winner in the lane with two seconds left against Memphis. Junior guard Jalen Gaffney, who hails from Columbus in Burlington County, averages 5 points per game off the bench.
3 KEYS FOR FDU
1. Box out. Height is not the issue here. These are the two smallest teams left in the field (FDU's average height is 6-1; FAU's is 6-3). But FAU is aggressive to the glass; the Owls grabbed 18 offensive boards against Memphis and are a healthy plus-six on the season in rebounding margin (FDU is plus-0.5).
2. Win the 3-point line. FAU makes nearly 10 3-pointers per game and shoots 37 percent from deep, while holding foes to 31 percent. The Knights dared Purdue to beat them from deep, and the Boilermakers couldn't do it. They’ll come out and guard these guys.
3. Keep the swagger coming. The Knights knocked off Purdue because they were demonstrably tougher and more confident. Those intangibles can sway the outcome in a one-game, pressure-filled setting. They'll need 40 more minutes of fast and loose.
Unlike Purdue, FAU won’t mind going up and down at FDU’s pace. This could be a wildly entertaining shootout. The truth is that FAU looks a lot like FDU – balanced, gritty, attack-minded. But they're more consistent -- you don't win 32 games by accident -- and won’t be taken out of their comfort zone as easily as the Boilers. FAU 78, FDU 75.
Jerry Carino has covered the New Jersey sports scene since 1996 and the college basketball beat since 2003. He is an Associated Press Top 25 voter. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: FDU vs. FAU in NCAA Tournament game Sunday at March Madness