One more void in the non-conference schedule was filled today, leaving three spots by my count. According to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports Purdue has added NJIT to the non-conference schedule:
Purdue will host NJIT as part of its 16-17 non-conference schedule, source told @CBSSports.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) May 27, 2016
Until recently NJIT was the last college basketball vagabond as an independent.Unlike in football, it is ridiculously hard to build a program as an independent in basketball. The Highlanders became a full member of Division I in 2009 and tried to make it in the now defunct Great West Conference for awhile. The Great West was basically a bunch of independents that got together and tried to form a conference so they could get an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. It was kind of the island of misfit toys, really. It was full of teams that had just moved up to Division I, but could not find a regular conference membership. At one time it had Chicago State, three Dakota schools, Houston Baptist, Utah Valley State, Texas-Rio Grande Valley, and NJIT, making travel a nightmare. At one time even Seattle was a member.
Naturally, it did not go well. The membership was constantly fluctuating and the NCAA never did award them that automatic bid, so everyone struck out elsewhere. Chicago State landed in the WAC, North Dakota and South Dakota ended up in the Summit League, and some ended up independent for awhile. The league only had a basketball conference for four seasons, and the winner of their conference tournament did get to go to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, which is exclusively for mid- and low-majors.
NJIT won the final Great West title in 2013 and went independent before finally finding a home last fall in the Atlantic Sun. They were the final independent (for now) in college basketball, which meant they had a vagabond existence traveling all over the country and playing games wherever they could.
They are a rising program, however. They have reached the CIT the last two years and even reached the semifinals both times. in 2014-5 they finished 21-12 before losing to Northern Arizona int he semifinals. this past season they were 20-15 and lost to Columbia in the Hudson River battle for the semifinals (NJIT is based in Newark). That was gigantic improvement from 2008-09, when NJIT broke a 51 game losing streak.
By far, their most famous moment came on December 6, 2014. As an independent NJIT went to Michigan and shocked the defending Big Ten champs 72-70. It was such an event the Highlanders have it highlighted on their school page.
New Purdue point guard Spike Albrecht even played in that game, so he will be seeking vengeance, especially since Winfield Willis threw the ball off his backside for a key turnover in the final minute.
Here is your updated schedule:
November 11: Southern Illinois-Edwardsville
November 14: Villanova (Gavitt Tipoff Games)
November 22: Cancun Challenge vs. Auburn, Utah State, or Texas Tech
November 23: Cancun Challenge vs. Auburn, Utah State, or Texas Tech
November 30: at Louisville (ACC/Big Ten Challenge)
December 6: vs. Arizona State at Madison Square Garden (Jimmy V. Classic)
December 17: vs. Notre Dame at Bankers Life Fieldhouse (Crossroads Classic)
December 19: Western Illinois
December 21: Norfolk State