Previewing Fairleigh Dickinson: After Rutgers upset, still a Division 2 team in disguise?

Senior point guard Sidney Sanders Jr. (23) has the 5th best assist rate in the country. - Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

2013-14 Fairleigh Dickinson  (2-6; KenPom: 340; RPI: 320)

2012-13 Fairleigh Dickinson (7-24, 2-16; KenPom: 339; RPI: 298)

New head coach Greg Herenda has not inherited the easiest situation. Then again, not many new head coaches at low-major programs do. 50.8 ppg (77%) departed via the graduation of six players, which includes the Knights' top four scorers. Rising sophomore guard Sekou Harris (5.5 ppg) also left the program to attend junior college.

Over their first seven games, FDU (2-6) picked up right where they left off after a 15-game losing streak closed out their 2012-13 season. After beating Division 2 Caldwell College in their opener, Fairleigh Dickinson dropped six in a row, including a 100-50 loss to Arizona, an 87-76 loss to Division 2 Metro State (Denver, Co.), a 67-63 defeat at the hands of Saint Peter's, and a neutral court loss to Norfolk State on Monday.

Plainly, Fairleigh Dickinson is bad and their ability is at the very bottom of Division 1. Right?

Then the Knights just had to go and upset Rutgers 73-72 at the RAC on Tuesday. The win was FDU's first over a Division 1 opponent after 20 straight defeats, only win over Rutgers since 1993, and first over a high-major opponent since beating Seton Hall in 2006.

Sure, Rutgers has struggled heavily this season, but this stunning upset (Rutgers were 18.5-point favorites) gives FDU a glimmer of hope tomorrow. The contest wasn't entirely Rutgers screwing up, Fairleigh Dickinson shot 11-23 from deep, and gave up 17 offensive rebounds to Rutgers.

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One of the Knights' lone bright spots has been senior Sidney Sanders Jr. The point guard that can also play 2-guard has averaged 16.8 ppg, 5.1 apg, 1.8 spg, and has the 5th best assist rate in the country.

Fairleigh Dickinson has just two forwards that stand 6-foot-7 or taller and play significant minutes. 6-foot-7 Denmark native Mathias Seilund (Sr., 28.8 mpg, 7.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg) and 6-foot-9 Niagara graduate Scooter Gillette (Grad Senior, 19.1 mpg, 6 ppg, 3.5 rpg), who used the same graduate rule that Kyle Smyth and Eniel Polynice took advantage of, play the majority of minutes up front. 6-foot-6 Xavier Harris (So., 19.7 mpg, 5.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg) fills in as an undersized forward (missed last two games through injury) and 6-foot-9 freshman Mike Owona (10.8 mpg, 5 blocks vs. Arizona) plays reserve forward minutes. FDU ranks 312th in the country in average height.

The Knights only carry two 3-ball threats in their rotation: Mustafaa Jones (24-50, 48%) and Matt MacDonald (16-47, 34%). The rest of FDU collectively shoots 26% from deep. However, 33.6% of Fairleigh Dickinson's scoring comes from outside the arc (43rd in country).

As predicted over the summer when the schedule became known, Fairleigh Dickinson is going to finish with a sub-300 RPI, regardless of what happened in Piscataway earlier this week. This is still the definition of a cupcake.

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Since 2000-01, Seton Hall has gone 3-1 against Fairleigh Dickinson, most recently winning 101-70 in 2008. Seton Hall lost a forgettable second game of the season 76-71 to FDU in 2006. Current director of basketball operations Grant Billmeier played 8 minutes in that game. FDU finished 14-16 with a 241st RPI in the 2006-07 season.

Seton Hall is 17-3 all-time against FDU and have won 11 of the last 12 meetings.

Former Seton Hall center Charles Manga scored 10 points, recorded 14 rebounds, and had 5 blocks against FDU in a 95-73 Seton Hall win in 2001.

KenPom says: No. 85 Seton Hall - 77, No. 340 Fairleigh Dickinson - 57 (97%)

Projected Fairleigh Dickinson starters:

Sr., G - Sidney Sanders Jr. (22 points, 10 assists vs. Rutgers)

Jr., G - Mustafaa Jones (21 points, 7 rebounds vs. Rutgers)

Fr., G - Matt MacDonald (14 points, 4-8 3pt vs. Rutgers)

Sr., F - Mathias Seilund

Sr., F - Scooter Gillette

Time: 2 p.m.

TV: FOX Sports 1

Radio: AM 970

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