Merrimack’s Joe Gallo has been rooting for FDU despite the fact that his team was the NEC Champion

Columbus, Ohio — There are many elements to the magical March Madness that Fairleigh Dickinson is after Cavalry surprised not. 1 Bordeaux seed on Friday night.

Many of them are well documented, starting with Knights coach Tobin Anderson, who was hired just 10 months prior from the Division II St. Louis Cardinals. Thomas Aquinas was in Rockland County to take on FDU, who brought three of his players with him.

One of those players — Columbus, Ohio, native Sean Moore — The hero was Friday night.

One unusual element of FDU’s story is the fact that the school entered the NCAA Tournament due to technical reasons.

Merrimack, from Andover, Massachusetts, won the Northeastern Conference tournament and, under normal circumstances, would have been awarded the automatic NCAA bid. But these are not normal conditions.

After moving from Division II to Division I, Merrimack was in the final year of what the NCAA calls a four-year “transition” period, during which A school moving to a division that is ineligible to play the NCAA Tournament.

Merrimack coach Joe Gallo
Charles Winzelberg/New York Post

So, instead of experiencing the magic FDU enjoyed this week, Merrimack coach Joe Gallo and his players are watching at home on TV.

“I think people probably picture me sitting in front of the TV angry and yelling, ‘This might be us, but that’s not my thinking at all,’” Gallo told The Post on Saturday when I reached him at his New Hampshire home. “We did everything we could. We finished the season on an 11-game winning streak. We won the last game we were allowed to play.

“I think what FDU is doing is just a great thing for the NEC, because people have been a little bit at NEC all year. It’s not just what they’ve done [Friday] It was amazing, but they totally got away with the thing in their first game [against Texas Southern in the First Four]. It’s great for the league and I hope they keep winning.”

Gallo said he and FDU coach Tobin Anderson have been friends for a long time.

“We played against each other my first year at Merrimack and him [St. Thomas Aquinas] We knocked the team out of the NCAA Division II tournament. “We have a lot of mutual respect for each other.”

In fact, Gallo was one of the first to send messages of congratulations to Anderson after the victory over Purdue.

Ziggy Reid leads Sean Moore during Merrimack's 67-66 win over FDU in the Northeast Conference championship game.
Ziggy Reid leads Sean Moore during Merrimack’s 67-66 win over FDU in the Northeast Conference championship game.

“I’m happy for him and I’m happy for the league,” Gallo said. “A lot of people find this out [NCAA] They rule for the first time and they can’t believe it. We have known about this rule for four years. We won our regular season our first year of Division I and couldn’t go to the NIT because the NCAA owns the NIT.

“It’s old news to us, but we appreciate that it sheds light on the base and people are talking about Merrimack. It’s great publicity for our program and our school.”

FDU offers players Merrimack, who went 15-4 against NEC opponents this year, think they can do it next year, after their twisted “transition” period is over.

“It gives them a feeling of believing that it can be done,” Gallo said. “But I feel a little bit about our guys now. We won the championship and we celebrated and nobody ever thought, ‘Poor us, we can’t play in the NCAA Tournament.’ But now that it’s real and it’s on TV, I feel about our guys that they won’t get to experience March madness”.

Gallo said he had “mixed feelings” among his players about watching the NCAA tournament.

“Some say, ‘I can’t watch,'” he said. “We have some guys watching and wishing they were there and other guys saying, ‘I don’t even want to watch.'”

“But it’s great for the little one. It makes everyone think you can put a team of strong kids together who believe in your system, which is what these people really believe in in what Tobin does. It’s a good example of success that a lot of people can follow.”

Gallo, who will be returning a number of his best players, believes his team can follow FDU’s lead.

“We’ll start a new journey now that our ‘transition’ is finally over and hopefully we’ll be in [NCAA] next year’s arc. “A lot of the guys are back and they’re already talking about trying to redo what we just did and getting an extra prize at the end of the rainbow next year.”

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