Who’s that busting brackets? We’re tracking every upset from a 13-, 14-, 15- or 16-seed and asking: Who can go on a Cinderella run? Here are the results so far.
March 17: Fairleigh Dickinson 63, Purdue 58
Scooch over UMBC, meet your new best friend Farleigh Dickinson.
The Knights made history on Friday night in Columbus, Ohio, becoming the second 16-seed to ever win an NCAA Tournament game by upsetting Big Ten regular-season and tournament champion Purdue in a manner that was hardly any fluke. Tobin Anderson’s squad outshot the Boilermakers, scored more off the bench and forced 16 turnovers to cement one of the biggest shocks March Madness has ever witnessed.
Yes, even more than the Retrievers’ monumental 74-54 victory over Virginia back in 2018.
You see Fairleigh Dickinson shouldn’t have even been in the position to even knock off Purdue by all accounts. They lost to Merrimack in the NEC Tournament Championship game last Tuesday but received the conference’s automatic bid to the Big Dance by virtue of the Warriors being ineligible as a program transitioning from Division II.
As a result of being the 68th and last team in the tournament field according to the NCAA Selection Committee, FDU got sent to Dayton to play in the First Four. They wound up thumping Texas Southern to earn the short drive over to Columbus to take on the top seed in the East as a -23.5 point underdog.
[John Fanta’s 2023 March Madness instant reaction: FDU-Purdue a true David-over-Goliath story]
Safe to say they’ve now shed that for a far more appropriate label as the latest Cinderella to grace the grand postseason that is March Madness. The question for the Knights now is: Can KenPom’s No. 275 squad go on a run akin to Saint Peter’s a year ago? That Shaheen Holloway-led side also ended up knocking off Purdue and advanced all the way to the Elite Eight.
FDU however, might have a much more difficult path ahead to even reach the East Regional in Madison Square Garden. The Knights advance to face either No. 8 seed Memphis or No. 9 Florida Atlantic.
The Tigers have a veteran core in the backcourt and have been among the hotter teams in the country the past few weeks, knocking off Houston to win the AAC Tournament last Sunday. The Owls, meanwhile, have lost just three times all season and have one of the best offenses in the country with a prolific attack that is difficult to defend.
Even if they were to get past either of those two, a very under-seeded Duke squad that hasn’t lost since Feb. 11 (and controversially at that) or a dangerous Tennessee team awaits in New York. Big East champion Marquette could loom after that.
So celebrate the moment up and down the New Jersey shore all you can, Fairleigh Dickinson, because the path forward in the NCAA Tournament is actually only going to get harder from here after knocking off top-seed Purdue.
– Bryan Fischer
March 16: Princeton 59, Arizona 55
Minutes after pulling off what might turn out to be the biggest shock of the 2023 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson gathered his players in the middle of the locker room.
He was drenched in a mixture of sweat, water and sports drink, and the words this time just tumbled out from a usually eloquent man. It was a message of pride, a direct order to enjoy the next 48 hours and a little dash of disbelief at how they’d outplayed No. 2 Arizona, the Pac 12 Tournament champs, down the stretch, to record a memorable 59-55 victory.
When he eventually stopped talking, several of his Tigers players took up a chorus.
“We’re not done yet,” they yelled collectively.
Who knows, they might be right. Princeton will stick around in Sacramento to clash with No. 7 Missouri on Saturday, perhaps emboldened by the reality that the 15-seed is on a historic tear over the last several tournaments.
Once seen as a virtual formality, that can no longer be said for a 2 vs. 15 matchup. Last season saw Saint Peter’s climb all the way to the Elite Eight. A year before that, Oral Roberts downed Ohio State and Florida before losing narrowly in the Sweet 16.
From 2001 to 2012, there wasn’t a single victory for a 15-seed. In the 11 years since, there have been seven. Princeton’s was as impressive as any.
Arizona had led by as many as 12 on Thursday, but Princeton, led by 15 points from Tosan Evbuomwan, never went away. Down the stretch, Arizona was forced into repeated turnovers. Azuolas Tubelis’ 22-point haul was not enough, and when the Tigers took the lead for the first time with two minutes left, the tide had firmly turned.
Caden Pierce knocked down a pair of free throws with 21.7 seconds to go, and Evbuomwan fittingly iced the game by bouncing one in with three seconds left.
It is not just a cliché to say that the Ivy Leaguers used their smarts to claim the win. In fact, it is that intrinsic game plan that will give them a chance to progress further in the bracket. Henderson’s plotting effectively slowed down Arizona’s offense and Princeton kept on gaining momentum, with torrid defense, swift transition and a swath of big blocks.
The Tigers will need to maintain that same defensive intensity in their second-round matchup against a Missouri team that averages 79.5 points per contest, which ranked second in the SEC.
As for Arizona, the Wildcats now carry the dubious distinction of becoming the first program to lose twice in the opening round as a No. 2 seed. The first time still holds a place in history, when a baby-faced Steve Nash shouldered Santa Clara to an epic upset back in 1993.
This was another one, but maybe it’s not the end. Princeton, like its players said so loudly, are hungry for more.
– Martin Rogers
March 16: Furman 68, Virginia 67
Looking for this year’s early candidate for a Cinderella ready to go on a dream run?
Well, Furman was the first team to raise its hand on Thursday, with the NCAA Tournament’s first opportunity for a major upset delivering just that.
The 13th-seeded Paladins sunk Virginia, the South Region’s No. 4 seed, which knows all about being on the wrong end of painful shocks, thanks an incredible turn of events over the final seconds in Orlando.
Bob Richey’s Furman team will now take on the winner of the clash between No. 5 San Diego State and No. 12 College of Charleston. The Aztecs are elite defensively, but not great in the scoring column, while College of Charleston is a popular Cinderella pick, tied for the national lead in wins with 31.
Both San Diego State and College of Charleston are experienced groups, and both are riding hot streaks. The Aztecs have won 10 of their last 11 games, while the Cougars are riding a 10-game winning streak heading into the Big Dance.
Whatever comes after this, Furman will never forget what took place across a few moments of true March-style madness.
Deep into the final minute, Virginia looked to have things under control, operating with a 67-63 lead, having taken defensive control down the stretch. But Kihei Clark missed a free throw, Furman big man Garrett Hien (a 51% FT shooter) made two from the stripe, and then it all turned to chaos.
Furman put pressure on Virginia following the resulting inbounds pass, and Clark opted to hurl the ball down the court unsighted. It landed in Hien’s hands and was swiftly delivered to the unguarded JP Pegues, who drained a triple to put his team up 68-67 with 2.2 seconds remaining.
Reece Beekman‘s desperate last effort was wayward for Virginia, and that was it.
This is SoCon Tournament champ Furman’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 1980 and the program’s first tournament win since 1974. Thursday’s triumph came despite being without star guard Mike Bothwell in the final minutes after having fouled out.
Tony Bennett’s Virginia team had reached the ACC Tournament title game last weekend, and led by as many as 12 on Thursday, before a comeback spurred by Furman’s Jalen Slawson, who ended with 19 points.
This wasn’t on the same scale as when Bennett’s group was a No. 1 seed and lost to 16th-seeded UMBC – on the exact same day five years ago – but it was an upset few saw coming.
Most importantly, it served immediate notice. Cinderella, once again, is coming to play.
– Martin Rogers
Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.
Bryan Fischer is a college football writer for FOX Sports. He has been covering college athletics for nearly two decades at outlets such as NBC Sports, CBS Sports, Yahoo! Sports and NFL.com among others. Follow him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.
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