FDU Plays Prairie View A&M Panthers in Ohio in ‘First Four’ of NCAA

By Justin Rimpi
Sports Editor

The FDU Knights have learned their fate as they prepare for the 2019 NCAA Tournament.

During a watch party hosted at Wilson Auditorium, located in Dickinson Hall hosted by the the FDU athletic department it was announced the Knights will face-off against Prairie View A&M in Dayton, Ohio on Tue., March 19, 2019.

This is a match-up in a game known as the “First Four” with the winner facing the No.1 seed in the West Region, the Gonzaga Bulldogs.

The Knights and Spartans are paired as No. 16 seeds.

The watch party was the final event in a Sunday filled with anticipation and nervousness as both the Knights players and fans waited all day to find out the fate of the Northeast Conference champion Knights.

The day began with an open practice, introduction of the Knights coaches of players, and then a “March to Madness.” During the “March to Madness,” those in attendance made the short walk from the Rothman Center to the Wilson Auditorium where the Knights would find out who their first-round opponent would be — announced on a national CBS broadcast.

“I love this team and you [Fairleigh Dickinson University] are lucky to have them as your representatives,” said head coach Greg Herenda.

“I can’t wait to go to Dayton and win the first game of the NCAA tournament in the history of Fairleigh Dickinson University,” said Herenda.

“I can’t thank you guys for coming out tonight to support our men’s basketball team and we need you in Dayton to be as loud as you were against St. Francis (Pa.),” said Brad Hurlbut, who started as athletic director in February. The Knights have not lost since February 14 and are undefeated during the tenure of Hurlbut at the helm of the athletic department.

The Knights defeated St. Francis (Pa.) on the road Tuesday to claim the NEC tournament title, ultimately securing their bid into this year’s NCAA tournament, their first since 2016.

“I truly feel like the luckiest athletic director in the nation,” said Hurlbut. “The fact that I walked into such a great situation with our men’s basketball has made me feel very lucky.”

“It is now time to watch film and get to work. I hope that you [the fans] can be there,” said Herenda.

The crowd in both the Rothman Center and the Wilson Auditorium had a nervous energy  because of the opportunity the Knights have in front of them. All in attendance knew how well the Knights were playing and were hoping for a favorable first-round matchup for the Knights.

Faculty and alumni were well represented at the events all throughout the afternoon. The crowd was made up of individuals from all ages, from small children to individuals decades older.

The support for the Knights in the building was palpable and that was evident when the fans were permitted to step onto the court in order to take a picture, or just talk with, some of their favorite Knights. Everybody seemed to value this because there was grinning from ear-to-ear as the court filled up with individuals just wanting to have a moment with the players and coaches, and the players to express their gratitude to the fans.

The fact that hundreds of people showed up on a Sunday afternoon spoke volumes about how loyal the fans and faculty are to this Knights team and how they wanted to share in the glory that accompanied such a great day.

The players, coaches, and fans all seemed to breathe a sigh of relief as the Knights would be playing in a “First Four” game and not go directly in the bracket where they would be heavy underdogs against top-seeded team.

“Our opponent [ Gonzaga, if FDU wins its First Four] will be heavily favored against us and nobody will expect us to win,” said Herenda. “But that is exactly what they said last year about UMBC.”


Antony Covino photo