It’s hard not to feel sorry for the New Jersey Institute of Technology men’s basketball team.
The Highlanders finished their second season playing as an Independent at the Division I level with a loss to Utah Valley. It was more of a beat down, really, as Utah Valley cruised to the 76-50 win.
It was the kind of loss NJIT has gotten used to this season, losing by an average of more than 21 points a game. NJIT finished 0-29, a record for most losses by a winless D-I team. Only two of those losses came by single digits.
Utah Valley’s bench players would have won by more than 10.
But were the Highlanders going to get any love from the Wolverines? Did Utah Valley, which has had its own struggles this season, feel for the hapless Highlanders?
"Yes and no," said Jordan Brady, who scored 16 points in the win. "I respect that they worked hard to the end, but no one wants to be the team to lose to them."
OK, maybe that’s why four of the Wolverines starters were playing in the closing minutes of the game with more than a 20-point cushion.
You never know, the Highlanders could surprise them with a comeback. Maybe Utah Valley thought they were due.
NJIT is in the bottom three in D-I. That’s out of 341 teams, in field goal percentage, points per game, and turnovers – and their RPI is dead last at 341. Every other D-I team won at least two games.
Maybe some pity from Utah Valley would have been nice.
How’s this for solace, though? Up 21, Utah Valley’s Ryan Toolson decided to bury a 40-foot 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer.
To add to the misery for NJIT, their coach Jim Casciano decided to resign two days before they played Utah Valley. He did coach the team in the final game, though.
It’s been a miserable season filled with futility, and it has students and fans wondering why the school ever made the jump from Division II.
When Toolson struggled in the first half offensively, it would have been easy to let NJIT stay close and feel good about its play. But Josh Olsen’s four first-half 3-pointers were a funny way to comfort a team with 33 straight losses. Then Toolson showed up with 14 straight points to finish the first half and start the second.
NJIT has garnered national attention for its dismal season, including national syndicated columnist Norman Chad writing, "If NJIT split the squad and played each other, it’s possible neither team would win."
Brady showed how bad he really felt about the Highlanders’ awful season when he drove baseline and threw down a hammer dunk with under two minutes left in the game. He finished the game with another dunk.
Maybe the Wolverines are waiting until next year, when NJIT will smash Sacramento State’s record of 34 straight losses, to practice their charity. Or maybe they saw the sign held up by a fan during warm-ups that read, "0-28 … but we think you’re great," and believed it.