Fairleigh Dickinson’s upset over Purdue on Friday is made even more amazing by the fact that they are not even supposed to be in the men’s NCAA tournament by normal standards. While the Knights did finish the season with 21 wins, they didn’t earn a traditional automatic qualifier bid because they didn’t win the Northeast Conference tournament.
That honor belonged to Merrimack, who beat the Knights 67–66 in the NEC tournament final. However, because Merrimack is ineligible for the tournament as it transitions from Division II to Division I, Fairleigh Dickinson was given the nod.
So, does Merrimack feel robbed of the chance to upset Purdue? Not quite.
Head coach Joe Gallo said he and his team understand the situation they are in. Therefore, they are rooting for the Knights in the tournament.
“To quote my 6-year-old, ‘Dad, we beat them, so we want them to win,’” Gallo told CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander. “People have also been tough on our league all year, so I’m happy for the win.”
For Gallo, it certainly helps that he and FDU head coach Tobin Anderson seem to be close acquaintances instead of bitter rivals.
“I’ve known Tobin forever,” Gallo said. “He’s a friend. His St. Thomas Aquinas team knocked us out of the D-II NCAA Tournament my first year at Merrimack, and we then scrimmaged every year after that ‘cause we knew how much it would prepare both of our teams for the season.”
This was the fourth and final year of Merrimack’s ineligibility, so the Warriors will be able to make March Madness for the first time starting next year.