Slightly belated, tonight’s small conference game is a non-conference matchup between a team from the smallest conference out there, the Great West, and an independent. At 8:00 PM Eastern, NJIT will be traveling to New Orleans to take on the Privateers.
Of note in this game is that New Orleans is (with Cal State-Bakersfield) one of only two independents. Further, both New Orleans and CS-Bakersfield will be joining conferences next season, with UNO set to join the Southland. New Orleans spent years in the Sun Belt Conference but after Hurricane Katrina, funding for their athletic programs just kept getting smaller and smaller. Finally, about two years ago, they elected to drop their athletics down to Division III. Before dropping, the school reconsidered and decided to transition to Division II instead. They did so before last season and spent the year playing a D2 schedule. Then, after last season, they reconsidered again and chose to return to Division I. As UNO had never fully transitioned out of Division I, they did rejoin as a full D1 member, meaning they are technically eligible for the NCAA tournament (but of course only through an at-large bid that they would not get even if they won out the rest of their games at this point).
Speaking of independents, NJIT at the moment is scheduled to be the only Division I independent next season. This is the final year of the Great West as its four other members have accepted invites to other conferences (one of them, Houston Baptist, will be joining UNO in the Southland in fact). This is not to say that NJIT wants to be an independent, they simply do not yet have a conference invite. It would be of no surprise at all if they do find a conference home before next season, with the America East being the most rumored destination (and the Northeast is a possibility as well).
As for tonight’s game, NJIT enters at 6-9 overall with an RPI of 308, though they are 2-0 so far in conference play and could be a serious threat to win the Great West’s final championship. New Orleans is only 2-12 with a 345 RPI. NJIT should win the game, but it is being played in New Orleans so an upset would not be a shocker by any means.