FDU Flexes for ‘First Four’

image of fdu t shirt with basketball logo Travel kit: A fresh team T-shirt for the road trip to Dayton and the play-in for the NCAA Tournament tonight against Texas Southern.

FDU will tip off the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at 6:40 tonight against fellow 16th-seed Texas Southern at Dayton, Ohio, in the “First Four” play-in segment of the tournament.

The Knights (19-15) are in the NCAA for the first time since 2019, a big accomplishment under head coach Tobin Anderson, a veteran coach in his first year at FDU.

FDU earned the Northeast Conference automatic entry to the tournament by pounding No. 3 St. Francis 70-50 in the semifinals. Merrimack, the tourney champion with a 67-66 win over FDU in the finals, is ineligible under NCAA regulations after moving up to Division 1.

The Texas Southern Tigers (14-20) won the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament and are in the First Four at Dayton for a third-straight season. Oddsmakers favor the Tigers.

Davon Barnes, a 6-5 forward, leads Texas Southern with 13.6 points a game, while 5-10 point guard PJ Henry and 6-9 forward John Walker III add 12.7 and 12.6, respectively. Shaqir O’Neal, 6-7 son of Shaq — yes, that Shaq — is a reserve and has played in 20 games.

With three players standing over 6-9, the Tigers have a height advantage over FDU, which at one point in the season, was described as having the smallest starting lineup in Division 1.

Offense may be the key to taming the Tigers, who swept through the SWAC tourney field holding opponents to 62, 61 and 58 points with a man-to-man defense.

The winner gets to face No. 1 seeded Purdue. Last trip to the big dance, the Knights beat Prairie View in the First Four to earn the right to play powerhouse Gonzaga.

Under Tobin, the Knights have consistently placed three scorers in the weekly Top 10 in the conference while leading the league in points, assists and threes per game. The Knights have erased memories of last year’s 4-22 record that resulted in FDU firing head coach Greg Herenda.

Tobin comes to FDU after nine years at Division II St. Thomas Aquinas. Guards Demetre Roberts (16.7 points per game and first team all-NEC) and Grant Singleton (14.3 and second team all-NEC) followed Tobin to FDU for a postgrad season.

Second-year Ansley Almonor, a 6-6 forward, has blossomed under Tobin to earn third-team all-NEC and Most Improved Player honors.