FDU defies odds in historic NCAA tourney upset

  • Joined ESPN in 2014
  • Journalist covering gambling industry since 2008

Fairleigh Dickinson pulled off the biggest NCAA tournament upset point spread-wise in 38 years, stunning No. 1 seed Purdue as a 23.5-point underdog on Friday to become the second 16-seed to win a game in the round of 64 at Columbus, Ohio.

FDU, which was 25-1 to beat Purdue straight-up at some sportsbooks, had longer odds to win the game than the Boilermakers did to win the entire tournament. Purdue was around 10-1 to win the whole thing.

Some bettors took their shot on the Cinderella Knights, who only made the tournament because Northeast Conference champion Merrimack was ineligible while transitioning from Division II.

The South Point sportsbook in Las Vegas reported taking a $2,100 money-line bet on FDU at 25-1 odds. The bet paid a net $52,500.

“That game hurt,” South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews told ESPN.

A bettor with FanDuel had $2,000 on the Knights at 20-1, and Caesars Sportsbook reported a bettor in Indiana put $500 on FDU at 20-1. The bulk of the money, though, was on the favored Boilermakers. At sportsbook PointsBet, 91% of the money bet on the game’s money line was on Purdue.

Purdue was listed around -10,000 to beat FDU straight-up, meaning bettors had to risk $10,000 to win a net $100. The largest money-line bets on Purdue at Caesars Sportsbook were in the four-figure range, a company spokesperson said.

The Boilermakers lost to a double-digit seed for the second straight NCAA tournament and took down the handful of remaining perfect brackets out of the 20,056,652 that were entered into ESPN’s Tournament Challenge this year.

Entering Friday, teams favored by 23 points or more were 176-1 straight-up this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. In December, Eastern Illinois beat Iowa as a 31.5-point underdog, the largest regular-season upset point spread-wise in the past 30 years. Three months later, Fairleigh Dickinson followed up with largest upset in the tournament since it expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

“Incredible upset,” said John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook in Las Vegas, adding that his shop suffered a “small” loss on the game.

Bettors in New Jersey weren’t allowed to get in on the action on Fairleigh Dickinson, though. New Jersey regulations prohibit sportsbooks from offering bets on games involving in-state schools. Fairleigh Dickinson is located in Hackensack, New Jersey.

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