One year after shocking the world, is Fairleigh Dickinson rooting for Purdue to win it all now?

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The man who engineered Fairleigh Dickinson’s stunning upset of Purdue has taken on an unexpected side job this season.

Tobin Anderson has become the go-to consultant for other coaches who are trying to devise a game plan to beat the Boilermakers.

It started in non-league play when Anderson fielded calls from Alabama and a handful of other teams who were about to face Purdue. The calls picked up again in the NCAA tournament as coaches from NC State and other programs peppered Anderson with questions.

“All these teams that play Purdue, they all call me ahead of time like, ‘What do you think? What do you think?’” said Anderson, who left FDU last spring to become Iona’s head coach. “I try to tell them what our approach was and what worked for us.”

The blueprint that FDU provided during the first round of last year’s NCAA tournament has not been easy for others to replicate. Purdue’s six key returning players have used the agonizing memory of a 29-win season careening to a halt to fuel their quest for redemption.

Purdue has won its five NCAA tournament games by nearly 20 points apiece and has faced a second-half deficit for a total of 19 seconds. Now the Boilermakers enter Monday night’s title game against fellow No. 1 seed UConn one victory away from pulling a Virginia, one victory away from redefining their legacy from a team that lost to a 16 seed to a team that bounced back to win a championship.

As Purdue has shed the label of March underachievers, the Boilermakers’ former tormentors from FDU have taken the time to catch snippets of games or to pull up box scores and highlights. Many FDU players and coaches are happy for Purdue coach Matt Painter and star center Zach Edey. A few members of last year’s FDU team are even cheering for the Boilermakers.

“I personally will be rooting for them,” FDU forward Jo’el Emanuel told Yahoo Sports. “If they win, that only legitimizes our win that much more. People can’t say that they’re not that good anymore. Now they’ve proven they’re that good.”

Fairleigh Dickinson stunned the college basketball world with an upset of No. 1 Purdue in last year's NCAA tournament. (Jay LaPrete/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
Fairleigh Dickinson stunned the college basketball world with an upset of No. 1 Purdue in last year's NCAA tournament. (Jay LaPrete/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Purdue entered last year’s NCAA tournament as a No. 1 seed just like this year, but the Boilermakers’ gaudy record masked some vulnerabilities. Their freshman guards were showing signs of fatigue and waning confidence. Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer were misfiring from behind the arc and struggling facing full-court pressure.

When Anderson addressed his players two days before the Purdue game, he struck a confident tone. Fully aware there were cameras pointed on him, Anderson said, “I want Purdue to see this. The more I watch Purdue, the more I think we can beat them … let’s go shock the world.”

“That gave us so much confidence,” Emanuel recalled. “When he said that, any of us would have run through a wall.”

FDU was the shortest team in all of Division I college basketball last season, but Anderson turned that supposed weakness into a strength.

On offense, FDU spread the floor, attacking the basket and forcing the 7-foot-4 Edey to leave the paint and defend in space. On defense, FDU relentlessly pressured Purdue’s turnover-prone guards and fronted Edey in an effort to deny post entry passes and to force someone else to beat them.

Edey scored 21 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, but he attempted only one shot in the game’s final 12 minutes. His supporting cast struggled to force-feed him passes, to sink the wide-open jumpers that FDU was daring them to take or to generate any easy layups.

“We were really daring guys to shoot,” current FDU coach Jack Castleberry told Yahoo Sports. “There was nothing to lose for us in that situation.”

Purdue shrunk from the moment. FDU came up big.

“Styles make fights,” Anderson said. “The way we played caused them problems. In a funny way, our team was built to beat them.”

In the offseason, Painter grappled with a complex question: How do you fix what may not be broken? Is there a tweak for a program that annually cruises along from November until Selection Sunday, only to suffer three straight meltdowns when the lights shined brightest?

Painter’s answer, after evaluating every aspect of his program, was to resist the temptation to overreact. He instead tinkered at the edges, adding Southern Illinois transfer Lance Jones as a defensive specialist and secondary ball handler and exploring ways to keep his players mentally and physically fresh entering March.

Purdue's Zach Edey, Fletcher Loyer and forward Caleb Furst walk off the court after losing to Fairleigh Dickinson in the first round of last year's tournament.(AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)

A motivated, talented Purdue team made a regular-season statement by beating the likes of Tennessee, Arizona, Marquette and Alabama in non-league play and by winning the Big Ten title by three games. The Boilermakers have been dominant through five NCAA tournament wins.

“When you go through what we went through as a team, it either breaks you or you come out stronger on the other side,” Edey said Sunday. “You can kind of see that we have a lot of guys who really believe in themselves.”

Anytime Anderson watches Purdue this season, he sees a team that has been “hardened by shared suffering.” Anderson raves at how much more mentally tough the Boilermakers appear to be, how much better Edey’s supporting cast is shooting from the perimeter and how many different ways Painter is finding to get the ball to his big man in a position to score.

When coaches have called Anderson asking his advice, he points out two areas where he still feels Purdue can be exploited. Relentless defensive pressure can still bother Purdue’s guards and Edey still isn’t built to defend smaller, quicker players in space.

“I’ll be interested to see Monday night how much pressure UConn can put on those guards and how much that causes them problems,” Anderson said. “If they handle UConn’s pressure on the perimeter, they’ll be fine. But UConn has athletic, quick guards. They have the same kind of speed and quickness we had but they’re 6-5 and 6-6 and we were 5-9 and 5-10.”

Who will Anderson and Castleberry be cheering for on Monday night? They both say they’re neutral.

“It is good to see Purdue have success though,” Anderson said. “In a way it makes it even cooler that we were able to beat them.”