March Madness Takeaways: Why Edey and Purdue suffered a monumental loss

Zach Edey #15 of the Purdue Boilermakers grabs a rebound against the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights during the first half in the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Nationwide Arena on March 17, 2023 in Columbus, Ohio. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The Purdue Boilermakers certainly have helped Zach Edey develop. The seven-foot-four Canadian turned into the NCAA’s best men’s basketball player this season after arriving on campus in 2020 as an extremely raw big man.

Too bad Purdue failed in some other key assignments, though.

The talent around Edey wasn’t anywhere near good enough on Friday — and as a result, the Canadian’s 2023 March Madness run is over after one absolutely stunning game.

Top-seeded Purdue became just the second No. 1 seed in history to lose to a No. 16, falling 63-58 to the Fairleigh Dickenson Knights in Columbus, Ohio.

The winners from New Jersey are the shortest team in college basketball, went 4-22 a year ago and didn’t even capture their conference tournament title (but got into March Madness because Merrimack is ineligible while it completes a four-year transition from Division II).

All of this meant nothing on Friday as the Knights dictated play, double-teaming Edey regularly and watching his teammates shoot brick after brick (Purdue was 5-for-26 from three-point range).

“A lot of times they would have one dude guarding from behind and one dude basically sitting in my lap,” Edey said. “They were full fronting the entire game. Made it very hard to get catches. Credit to them, they had a great game plan coming in. And they executed it very well.”

At the other end, the quicker Knights weren’t afraid to go right at Edey — and while it didn’t always work, their aggressiveness paid off.

Some blame, too, has to fall on Purdue coach Matt Painter, whose team has now lost to double-digit seeds in the past three season-ending tournaments — last year was a loss to another New Jersey school, No. 15 Saint Peter’s.

This time, he lost to a coach in his first year with the team, Tobin Anderson, who made headlines on Wednesday when he told his players in the locker room after the play-in win, “The more I see Purdue, the more I think we can beat them.”

Turns out he was on to something.

“We talked about it before the game. In their wins and their losses he’s averaging the same amount of points. It’s like 24 on their wins and 23 on their losses,” Anderson said.

“If you look at wins and losses it’s the other guys around him. In their losses, those guys don’t play well. In their wins, those guys play well.”

Edey didn’t attempt a shot from the field in the final nine minutes — that’s ridiculous, no matter how many guys FDU sent at him or how much contact he was receiving in the paint.

Edey had 21 points and 15 rebounds on 7-of-11 shooting, while his teammates made just 12 shots from the field all game.

Purdue turned it over 16 times and had poor execution coming out of timeouts.

Edey was not as his best — he struggled with the ball down the stretch. But without him, the game probably was a rout.

Fittingly, Purdue’s Fletcher Loyer found nothing but air on a three-pointer with about 10 seconds left and his team down three — all but sealing the deal for the Knights.

[brightcove videoID=6322785457112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

‘Purdon’t’ was all the rage on Twitter afterward — and for good reason.

The NCAA-best 27th double-double of the season for Edey went to waste as Purdue flamed out in spectacular fashion.

“His parents are great. The people around him are great. He’s a good dude,” Painter said.

“It’s too bad. He deserves better than this. He deserves better.”

Close call

We almost got another major upset — and a great story to boot — on Friday afternoon.

However, No. 14 seed Kennesaw State couldn’t hold a 13-point lead against No. 3 Xavier and lost 72-67 in its March Madness debut.

Jack Nunge blocked Terrell Burden’s lay-up attempt in the dying seconds, preserving Xavier’s one-point lead against the suburban Atlanta upstart.

Kennesaw State wasn’t even in Division I until 2005.

Coach Amir Abdur-Rahim, younger brother of former Vancouver Grizzlies star Sharif Abdur-Rahim, took over the team in 2019-20 and proceeded to go 1-28.

“I am so proud of this group: who they’ve become, what they’re about, but more importantly, how they respond to adversity, and even how they respond to success,” Abdur-Rahim said.

“That was a fun basketball game out there today, man. It gets no better than that.”

The Owls may not have won Friday, but they gained plenty of fans with their Cinderella story.

Canadian corner

• Shaina Pellington of Pickering, Ont. had 18 points to help seventh-seeded Arizona beat West Virginia 75-62 in a first-round women’s game on Friday. Pellington played with foul trouble, having to sit out a healthy chunk of the second half after picking up her fourth four early in the third quarter.

• Pretty cool that Rosemere, Que. siblings Cassandre Prosper (Notre Dame) and Olivier-Maxence Prosper (Marquette) had their first tournament games overlap on courts about four hours apart on Friday — though maybe not for their family and friends.

Olivier-Maxence had 11 points and six rebounds as No. 2 seed Marquette beat Vermont 78-61 in Columbus, Ohio, while younger sister Cassandre had six points and eight rebounds as No. 3 seed Notre Dame beat Southern Utah 82-56 at home in South Bend, Ind.

The siblings’ unique afternoon was acknowledged on CBS’ coverage of the Marquette game.

• Fun story on how the Washington State women’s team has used a theme song from a famous Canadian on its improbable run to March Madness. Seems the Cougars have been belting out Shania Twain’s Man! I feel like a Woman! — and it’s working wonders.

After Washington State became the lowest-seeded team to win the Pac-12 title, Twain tweeted back to the squad: “I’m honoured to have been a small part of your journey!!” Washington State faces Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday — but it also has another key date on the calendar.

On April 28, the Cougars are hoping to join Twain on stage when her tour stops in Spokane, Wash. The Cougars have two Canadians on the roster — Tara Wallack of South Surrey, B.C. and Jessica Clarke of North Vancouver, B.C.

Injury update

There is a bit of a mystery on the status of Alabama star Brandon Miller, who went scoreless on Thursday while battling a groin injury — an on-court hiccup in what has been a turbulent period off the court after he was at the scene of a fatal shooting in January.

Alabama coach Nate Oats said Friday he “prays” the top-three NBA Draft prospect can play for the NCAA’s top-ranked team on Saturday night versus Maryland, which doesn’t seem to be a guarantee Miller will be on the court in Birmingham, Ala.

Meanwhile, another top seed, Houston, says star guard Marcus Sasser (strained groin) is questionable to play Saturday against Auburn, which should have a home-court advantage playing in-state (about two hours away from campus) in Birmingham. Sasser did not play in the second half on Thursday versus Northern Kentucky.

Saturday’s schedule

Men’s (round of 32)

No. 13 Furman vs. No. 5 San Diego State, 12:10 p.m. ET / 9:10 a.m. PT

No. 5 Duke vs. No. 4 Tennessee, 2:40 p.m. ET / 11:40 a.m. PT

No. 8 Arkansas vs. No. 1 Kansas, 5:15 p.m. ET / 2:15 p.m. PT

No. 15 Princeton vs. No. 7 Missouri, 6:10 p.m. ET / 3:10 p.m. PT

No. 9 Auburn vs. No. 1 Houston, 7:10 p.m. ET / 4:10 p.m. PT

No. 10 Penn State vs. No. 2 Texas, 7:45 p.m. ET / 4:45 p.m. PT

No. 7 Northwestern vs. No. 2 UCLA, 8:40 p.m. ET / 5:40 p.m. PT

No. 8 Maryland vs. No. 1 Alabama, 9:40 p.m. ET / 6:40 p.m. PT

Women’s (round of 64)

No. 16 Tennessee Tech vs. No. 1 Indiana, 11:30 a.m. ET / 8:30 p.m. PT

No. 13 Saint Louis vs. No. 4 Tennessee, 1 p.m. ET / 10 a.m. PT

No. 14 James Madison vs. No. 3 Ohio State, 1:30 p.m. ET / 10:30 a.m. PT

No. 9 Miami vs. No. 8 Oklahoma State, 2 p.m. ET / 11 a.m. PT

No. 12 Florida Gulf Coast vs. No. 5 Washington State, 2:30 p.m. ET / 11:30 a.m. PT

No. 15 Vermont vs. No. 2 UConn, 3 p.m. ET / 12 p.m. PT

No. 12 Toledo vs. No. 5 Iowa State, 3:30 p.m. ET / 12:30 p.m. PT

No. 11 St. John’s vs. No. 6 North Carolina, 4 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. PT

No. 13 Cleveland State vs. No. 4 Villanova, 5 p.m. ET / 2 p.m. PT

No. 10 Alabama vs. No. 7 Baylor, 5:30 p.m. ET / 2:30 p.m. PT

No. 11 Middle Tennessee vs. No. 6 Colorado, 7 p.m. ET / 4 p.m. PT

No. 12 Drake vs. No. 5 Louisville, 7:30 p.m. ET / 4:30 p.m. PT

No. 12 Portland vs. No. 5 Oklahoma, 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT

No. 14 Iona vs. No. 3 Duke, 9:30 p.m. ET / 6:30 p.m. PT

No. 13 East Carolina vs. No. 4 Texas, 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT

No. 13 Sacramento State vs. No. 4 UCLA, 11:30 p.m. ET / 8:30 p.m. PT

— With files from AP.

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