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Purdue, IU each hoping for deep run in the NCAA Tournament

Top-seeded Purdue and No. 4 Indiana will both make their March Madness debuts Friday night, with each team hoping to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

Purdue, the No. 1 seed in the East Region, will take on No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson at 6:50 p.m. on TNT.

The Boilermakers were Big Ten regular season champs and won the conference tournament to earn one of four top seeds in the Big Dance. They finished 29-5 overall and 15-5 in conference play. Purdue spent several weeks as the top-ranked team in the country. All five losses came in the Big Ten.

They’re led by Zach Edey, the first-team All-American and Big Ten Player of the Year who averages 22.3 points and 12.8 rebounds per game.

Purdue will take on the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights from the Northeast Conference. The Knights, from Hackensack, New Jersey, weren’t atop the conference standings at the end of the season and didn’t win their conference tournament.

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In fact, Fairleigh Dickinson lost the NEC championship game to Merrimack. So, how are they in the NCAA Tournament?

Merrimack made the transition from Division II to Division I in 2019. The NCAA has a transition rule barring teams from playing in NCAA championships during a four-year period when they change divisions. It means Merrimack, despite winning the conference tournament, is ineligible for the NCAA Tournament or the NIT. They’ll be eligible next season, however.

Still, Fairleigh Dickinson finished with a 20-15 overall record and 10-6 mark in conference play. The Knights proved they belonged in the Big Dance by topping Texas Southern 84-61 in Wednesday’s First Four game to set up Friday’s matchup against top-seeded Purdue at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

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In the Midwest region, the No. 4 Indiana Hoosiers won’t tip off until around 9:55 p.m. on TBS. They’ll play No. 13 Kent State at MVP Arena in Albany, New York.

The Hoosiers finished 22-11 overall and 12-8 in the Big Ten, good for third place. They made it to the semifinals of the conference tournament before losing to Penn State.

They’re led by first-team All-American and first-team All-Big Ten selection Trayce Jackson-Davis, who averages 20.8 points and 10.9 rebounds per game.

The Kent State Golden Flashes out of Kent, Ohio, boasted a 28-6 record in the regular season and finished 15-3 in MAC play, good for second place. They topped regular-season MAC champion Toledo in the conference tournament championship game to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

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The Golden Flashes are coached by Rob Senderoff, a former IU assistant hired during the Kelvin Sampson era. He eventually resigned amid a recruiting scandal that resulted in a show cause penalty for NCAA violations. He became Kent State’s head coach in 2011.

The Golden Flashes and Hoosiers have a little bit of history in the tournament. IU eliminated Kent State in 2002. The Golden Flashes had upset Indiana the year before—when IU was No. 4 seed and Kent State was a No. 13 seed.

As reported by Fox 59