NJIT, NCAA's Only Independent, to Spend 2013-14 Season in Search of a Home

Dave EmkeContributor IIINovember 6, 2013

NJIT will spend the 2013-14 season in search of a home.
NJIT will spend the 2013-14 season in search of a home.

There are 351 college basketball teams in NCAA's Division I for the 2013-14 season. Only one has no conference to call its home.

The New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders, 16-13 last year as the easternmost members of the five-team Great West Conference, will wander the nation as nomads in the year to come. Four members of the now-defunct GWC, which was the only conference in Division I that did not automatically send its champion to the NCAA Tournament, found new homes for this season—Houston Baptist headed to the Southland, while Chicago State, Utah Valley and Texas-Pan American all joined the WAC.

Meanwhile, in Newark, NJIT found itself the odd man out.

Because of his team's status, head coach Jim Engles experienced difficulty scheduling for the upcoming season, reported Big Apple Buckets.

“I woke up at times over the last few months in the middle of the night thinking ‘How are we going to play in January and February?’ It was definitely on my mind,” Engles said.

According to NJ.com, the Highlanders will travel to 10 different states throughout the course of this season, and 15 of their 29 games will be played outside of the Garden State. The season opens Friday night with a road trip to Tulane. The Highlanders will then travel to Albany, Army, New Hampshire and Maine before playing their first home game Nov. 23 against Lafayette.

In January and February—the source months of Engles' sleepless nights—the Highlanders will make road trips to places like North Carolina A&T and North Carolina Central (the latter of which will also play NJIT at home in the Highlanders' season finale), Delaware State and Maryland-Eastern Shore. They will also play host to Division III's City College of New York and non-NCAA schools Fisher College and Maine-Fort Kent. 

But further down the road, where does NJIT fit in?

The Newark Star-Ledger has previously reported that the Highlanders were expected to push for entry in the America East Conference or Northeast Conference.

Judging from the 2013-14 schedule, the team is looking to make in-roads with the AEC, with home-and-home tilts scheduled against three teams (Albany, Maine and UMass-Lowell) along with the road trip to New Hampshire. Meanwhile, the Highlanders will play four games against NEC teams in 2013-14—hosting Central Connecticut State on Nov. 26, LIU-Brooklyn on Dec. 12 and one road game each against St. Francis College and St. Francis University.

Engles told Big Apple Buckets that the 11 games against AEC and NEC opponents are "almost like auditions for us to get into a league."

The major storyline of the 2013-14 Highlanders season will be where the team ends up for 2014-15—with the ultimate goal being a stable home, something the team hasn't had during its brief existence in NCAA Division I.