2013-14 NJIT Highlanders (6-4; KenPom: 276; RPI: 324)
2012-13 NJIT (16-13, 6-2; KenPom: 267; RPI: 300)
Located under a mile away from Prudential Center, this is not your older brother's 'cupcake' NJIT. It was only five seasons ago that the Highlanders were the laughing stock of Division 1 college basketball, by a wide margin. Fast forward through head coach Jim Engles' impressive reign to present day and we're now looking at a program, although currently without a conference affiliation, that is above .500 (6-4) against Division 1 opponents. Meaningless stat you say? Well, Rutgers is 3-6, for starters.
Again without a conference to call home after spending four seasons in the Great West Conference, NJIT has knocked off the likes of Lafayette (future Seton Hall opponent), Army, and a trio of America East schools in Maine (x2), New Hampshire, and Division 1 newcomers UMass-Lowell. Perhaps the America East would be smart to invite NJIT to their conference. Seton Hall will be the toughest school NJIT has played to date with a trip to Butler on December 28th being the only more challenging game on paper.
The Highlanders' top three scorers from last season, Chris Flores, P.J. Miller, and Ryan Woods, have all graduated, taking 41.4 ppg (59%) with them. In addition, Philly native and sophomore guard Ky Howard (9.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.3 apg) almost transferred from the program over the summer. Howard has missed NJIT's last two games due to injury.
Replacing NJIT's graduated mainstays is a wave (10 players average 10+ mpg, 53rd in bench minutes) of young talent (346th in experience), some of which is from Seton Hall's backyard. Leading scorer Damon Lynn (18.9 ppg) is a freshman from Union Catholic (N.J.), a private school located in the hometown of Sterling Gibbs: Scotch Plains. Linden (N.J.) head coach Phil Colicchio, who has coached against talents like Tyreke Evans and Kyrie Irving, said that "No guard has ever done to us what that kid did to us today" after Lynn scored 32 points against Linden last winter. Lynn has attempted more 3-pointers (93) than the rest of NJIT's roster combined (88) and has scored at least 20 points in half of the Highlanders' games this season. Here is a feature on Damon Lynn published tonight by Jerry Carino.
Joining Howard and Lynn in NJIT's backcourt are sophomores Winfield Willis (9.3 ppg, 2.5 apg, 26 mpg), Nigel Sydnor (6.3 ppg, 23 mpg), and St. Louis transfer Emmanuel Tselentakis (3.2 ppg), and freshman Montana Mayfield (5 ppg), a Philly-area native who has only played in the Highlanders' two most recent games. Hailing from Greece, Tselentakis played for his country in the U-18 European Championships during the Summer of 2011. NJIT collectively shoots 39.2% from beyond the arc, good enough for 39th in the country.
On the wing and in the frontcourt are sophomores Terrence Smith (6-foot-6, 13.6 ppg, 6 rpg), Daquan Holiday (6-foot-8, 2.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 23rd best OReb%), and freshman Tim Coleman (6-foot-5, 8.6 rpg, 5 rpg), the last of whom is a product of Bob Hurley's legendary St. Anthony (N.J.) program. NJIT ranks near the bottom of the barrel (338th) in average height.
KenPom says: No. 127 Seton Hall - 74, No. 276 NJIT - 62 (89%)
Projected NJIT starters:
5-11 Fr., G - Damon Lynn
6-2 So., G - Nigel Sydnor
6-3 So., G - Ky Howard
6-5 Fr., F - Tim Coleman
6-6 So., F - Terrence Smith
Time: 9 p.m.
TV: FOX Sports 1
Radio: AM 970