Fairleigh Dickinson Basketball: Knights Of The Mid-Major Table

Michael IelpiCorrespondent IMay 12, 2009

The 2008-09 edition of Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Knights’ basketball was a trying year to say the least. The Knights would finish the season with seven wins and 23 losses. It was worse than the prior year when FDU was 8-22. They would fail to qualify for the Northeast Conference (NEC) Tournament for the second straight season.  

The Northeast Conference only has 8 of its 11 schools participate in the postseason tournament. The other time would be in the Knights 2001-02 season. Both of those teams are similar in that they were young squads that really needed to learn to play together, before they could learn to win together. The 2008-09 Knights did not have one senior on the roster. 

The Knights began the 08-09 season with six straight defeats, two of them were to NCAA Tournament bound teams, Pitt and Mississippi State. The high point for the team would be sweeping the New Jersey rivalry with fellow NEC member, Monmouth.

The low point came when losing by 13 to new Division I Independent, Bryant University.  Bryant made college basketball headlines for losing to NJIT, which broke NJIT’s NCAA record 51 game losing streak. 

Bryant will join the NEC in the 2011-12 season. 

The bright spots for FDU came more within the players than in the games.   Junior guard Sean Baptiste was the Knights’ leading scorer and rebounder averaging 16 points per game and 5.9 rebounds per game. 

Baptiste was named to the All-NEC’s second team. Junior guard Cameron Tyler returned to the Knights after a year absence and was second in scoring with 13 points per game, and led the team with 5.3 assists per game. 

New transfer to FDU, junior forward Alvin Mofunaya had a nice debut season, he had nine points per game mixed in with 5.5 rebounds per game. A University of Rhode Island transfer; sophomore guard Terence Grier had nearly eight points per game. Other Knight contributors were Eric Moore, John Galvin and Kamil Svrdik. All should be back next season.

A Little Fairleigh Dickinson Basketball History

Most of FDU’s college basketball history can be traced to its current head coach. FDU’s head coach, Tom Green, has been the Knights’ leader since 1983. His career record at FDU is 407-351. In his tenure, FDU has had seven 20-win seasons and the Knights have captured the Northeast Conference Tournament four times to advance to the NCAA Tournament.

Green’s career record in the “Big Dance” is 0-4, but do not let that record fool you.

Tom Green is a very capable coach.  Three of those appearances had the Knights as the 16th seed and in 1998 the Knights were the #No. 5 seed. FDU has never played like a huge underdog expected to roll over in any of those games. 

In 1985, FDU was one of the first No. 16 seeds as this was the year that the tournament expanded to 64 teams. FDU gave the No. 1 seed Michigan Wolverines all it could handle in a 59-55 defeat. FDU fans take a little piece of the credit in Villanova’s magical run to the 1985 NCAA Championship. Villanova’s next game was against Michigan, who would defeat Michigan by the same 59-55 score. 

In 1988, FDU lost by 15 to top-seeded Purdue, 94-79. Ten years later, FDU went up against No. 2 Connecticut and lost 93-85.  This game was tied with just four minutes to play. FDU’s Elijah Allen would score a Tournament high 43 points in that game. 

FDU’s most recent trip to the dance was in 2005, when the Knights squared off with No. 1 seed and eventual National Finalist, Illinois. Illinois won the game 67-55, but it was not without a scare from the Knights. The Knights only trailed by one point at halftime.

For a FDU fan, the biggest hope for the program would be to be the first ever sixteen seed to knock off a number one seed. It has yet to happen in 100 tries, but FDU has been one of the closest. 

Currently, the Knights have not posted any news on any new recruits to the program for the upcoming season. The University’s basketball home page is found here. When you are low level mid-major like FDU, sometimes the Knights will wait until some of the players who have signed with larger schools to drop their commitment to that school and then sign them to the Knights’ roster. 

It appears that things can only get better in 2009-10 for the Knights. I will keep you posted during the off season as we wait until Midnight Madness in October.