The Blueprint for Fairleigh Dickinsons Upset Came From an Even Smaller School

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The formula for Fairleigh Dickinson’s defining triumph of March Madness, as a No.16 seed over top-seeded Purdue, was written not from the school’s compact New Jersey campus along the Hackensack River, but at an even smaller site just north.There, at Division II St.Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill, N.Y., Tobin Anderson sharpened a brand of basketball his assistant coaches affectionately referred to as “bedlam,” to describe his rosters of small guards who play fierce, pugnacious defense and always-in-motion offense.

Anderson brought that blueprint this season to Fairleigh Dickinson, turning around a program that had only four wins last season.“It’s a really unique style,” said Grant Singleton, a 5-foot-9 guard who played for Anderson at St.Thomas Aquinas and joined him at Fairleigh Dickinson.“Really, really up-tempo, fast-paced.”The quick-talking Anderson, in his first year in Teaneck, N.J., the home of F.D.U.’s campus, effectively mapped St.

Thomas Aquinas’s system onto Fairleigh Dickinson’s program, reversing its fortunes.The Knights have won 21 games, including victories in the play-in round and against Purdue, when it frustrated the 7-foot-4 Boilermaker center, Zach Edey, primarily by shutting down Edey’s teammates.Already, Anderson has succeeded in his sport’s biggest event with his own ideas about how to play at the highest level.He said on Saturday that he spent nine years trying to perfect his strategy at St.Thomas Aquinas, and he has been surprised by how quickly it has worked in Division I.

“It usually takes a lot longer,” he said.Three of his players in Sparkill — Singleton, Demetre Roberts and Sean Moore — now star for Fairleigh Dickinson.They combined for 39 of the team’s 63 points against Purdue.Like it did with Roberts, who is 5-foot-8, and Singleton, St.Thomas Aquinas has thrived with shorter players typically seen as too small for top Division I programs.

Fairleigh Dickinson is now the...

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Publisher: The New York Times

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