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One of the favorites to win this year’s NCAA Tournament will start their March Madness campaign on Friday, as Purdue will face Fairleigh Dickinson in East Region first-round action. The Boilermakers come into this game expected to make the Final Four as their region’s top seed. In this Purdue vs Fairleigh Dickinson preview, we assess their chances of getting through the first round smoothly and give you our Purdue vs Fairleigh Dickinson predictions for this Friday night David vs. Goliath matchup.
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The Purdue NCAA Tournament campaign will begin with sky-high expectations after the Boilermakers ran away with the Big Ten championship the week before. That, combined with the fact that only one 16-seed has ever beaten a top-seed, has Purdue as a massive favorite over the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights. With Zach Edey prowling the paint for Purdue, the Boilermakers will have a decided advantage on the interior from start to finish here.
As is the case with all one-seeds in this tournament, Purdue will start March Madness close to home in Columbus, Ohio. That should mean that they will have plenty of fan support for this game, along with a potential second-round matchup against the winner of #8 Memphis vs #9 Florida Atlantic. The Boilermakers should not need to lean on crowd support to beat a 16-seed here, but having the building on their side could not possibly hurt their cause.
There is no question that the success of this year’s Purdue March Madness campaign will hinge on the play of center Zach Edey. The presumptive national player of the year coming into this tournament, Edey leads Purdue in scoring and rebounding with 22.3 points and 12.8 rebounds per game. FDU is unlikely to be able to contest Edey’s shots vertically, and Edey should have a big night here as long as he can catch the ball deep in the paint on a semi-regular basis.
Edey has helped Purdue to place in the top-25 in the country in rebounds per game going into the NCAA Tournament. They averaged 38.6 boards per game and did so with the majority of their schedule coming against Big Ten competition. Against a foe from the Northeast Conference in this contest, expect the battle of the boards to be dominated by the Boilermakers.
The Fairleigh Dickinson Knights received the automatic bid to this year’s Big Dance from the Northeast Conference, despite not winning their conference tournament. Merrimack, who won the NEC title, was ineligible to compete in the NCAA Tournament by virtue of still being in their transitional period into Division I. By simply making the conference title game, FDU was given the automatic bid, and the Fairleigh Dickinson NCAA Tournament is already underway after a win on Wednesday.
Fairleigh Dickinson made it to the NCAA Tournament first round by beating Texas Southern convincingly in the First Four. They got off to a fast start and never looked back, taking advantage of some ghastly three-point shooting from Texas Southern. The Knights have a much tougher task ahead of them if they want to advance to round two, though, as they look to become just the second 16-seed to ever beat a one-seed during this tournament.
Whether this Fairleigh Dickinson March Madness run will continue will depend heavily on the play of Demetre Roberts. Roberts has scored 15 or more points in three-straight games for the Knights, including a 15-point performance on Wednesday night against Texas Southern. He has played well in the biggest games of the season for FDU thus far and is the most likely player on their roster not to crumble under the spotlight that is March Madness on TNT.
The problem for FDU is going to be their rebounding or lack thereof. The Knights don’t have a single player averaging five or more rebounds per game, and they are tied for 181st in the nation in rebounding margin. Compared to Purdue, who ranks first in that category, the Knights just don’t stack up on the interior.
Going into this game in the NCAA Tournament on TNT, the Purdue Boilermakers are massive 23-point favorites over the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights. The total for the game, meanwhile, is set at 145.5. For those bold enough to take Fairleigh Dickinson to win this game and make March Madness history, FanDuel has the Knights at +2200 to win on the moneyline.
When it comes to picking this game, taking Purdue to cover this massive point spread is the right play. FDU played admirably to get to this point, but they are in for a completely different experience against this physical Purdue squad. Expect Zach Edey to absolutely feast in the paint against the Knights, and for Purdue to win this game by around 30 points to get to the second round.
For those who may not feel comfortable laying that many points with Purdue, the under is another bet worth making in this matchup. Purdue should be able to lockup Fairleigh Dickinson, who will not be able to bring the ball into the paint without running into a Zach Edey-sized wall at all times. With Purdue likely to be able to get their starters out of this game down the stretch, we should see this game stay under in a blowout win for the Boilermakers.
Location: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio
Game Time & Date: Friday, Mar. 17, 2023, at 6:50 p.m. ET
TV Network: TNT
Streaming: MM Live
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