I am coming out of my brief basketball sabbatical to give us a brief NJIT preview because, well, we mostly forgot there is a basketball game tomorrow. Technically, this is the fourth of the four games in with the Cancun Challenge. Two of them get to be “campus games”, and last week’s game with Georgia State was the first of those two campus games.
New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders
From: Newark, NJ
Date : Saturday, November 26, 2016
Tip Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: West Lafayette, IN
Arena: Mackey Arena (14,804)
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
Odds: None Posted
2015-16 Record: 20-15, 8-6 Atlantic Sun (Reached semifinals of Collegeinsider.com Tournament)
2016-17 Record: 3-3
Opponent Blog: None
Series with Purdue: First Meeting
Last NJIT Win: None
Last Purdue Win: None
NCAA Tournament History: Never Appeared
After a long time in the wilderness of college basketball, NJIT finally has a conference home and this looked like it could be the year where they break through. The school moved to Division I for the 2006-07 season and they were in the short-lived Great West Conference for a while. The Great West was basically a misfit conference of teams new to Division I without a conference home that was formed with the hopes of getting NCAA automatic bid recognition. It didn’t work. The conference had schools from New Jersey to California and never got the official recognition from the NCAA it sought.
Eventually, schools drifted towards conferences that at least had an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. The Great West dissolved in 2013, and NJIT was left as the lone college basketball independent. It was a hard existence of buy games and travel, but before last season they finally found a home in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Last year was their first season of competition in the new league, and this was supposed to be the year they competed for a league title and that elusive NCAA bid.
The last two years have been quite successful by their standards. In 2014-15 NJIT made its first ever postseason tournament appearance when it was selected for the CollegeInsider.com 32 team tournament involving mid- to low-majors. They would win there games before falling to Northern Arizona in the semifinals. Last season was more of the same, as they also won three games before losing to Columbia in the semifinals.
Their biggest moment came on December 6, 2014 at Michigan, however. The Highlanders stunned No. 17 Michigan in Ann Arbor for their first ever win over a ranked team. Our own Spike Albrecht was involved in that game. Playing 27 minutes and scoring 7 points.
So far this season the Highlanders have played two common opponents with Purdue as a result of the Cancun Challenge. They lost to Utah State in Utah 93-84 and lost to Georgia State 74-53 in their game in Mexico with the Panthers. They also have a loss to Lafayette, with wins over Colgate, Idaho State, and non-Division I Sarah Lawrence.
NJIT is expected to be one of the better teams in the Atlantic Sun and could challenge for the automatic bid. That likely means a 15 seed at best, however. They later play at Minnesota and Temple, but they mostly plays smaller schools and will struggle to stay above the 200 line in the KenPom and RPI numbers.
Purdue needs to watch out for Damon, Lynn, who is one of the country’s top scorers at 22.5 points per game. He is shooting 39.1% from three and an impressive 94.4% from the line. He is currently 27th nationally in scoring overall, and with several games coming up against smaller teams the 5’11” senior guard will put in a lot of points. He also averages 3.8 assists per game, so he is quite the playmaker.
Tim Coleman (14.2 ppg) and Rob Ukawuba (10.3ppg) average in double figures, but the scoring drops off quite a bit after them. As with most Purdue early season opponents, we need to look at their size up front and see how they are going to stop Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan. Abdul Lewis is a 6’10” center that plays 25 minutes a night and averages 6.3 points and 8 rebounds, so he can at least test Haas a bit. He is the only regular player over 6’6” however, so Purdue should have an overwhelming advantage in the post.
This is very much another cupcake game. NJIT needs to compete for the Atlantic Sun crown and they probably will. That will help Purdue in the long run, but in a direct matchup this is a game Purdue absolutely should win. Purdue 85, NJIT 60