Thursday, February 7, 2008


Lately, there's been a lot of talk about perfect seasons. Maybe, maybe too much talk, as too many congratulatory voices can ultimately spoil the relentless pursuit of perfection. As we've already happily discovered this week, some teams have the talent but lack the intestinal fortitude to achieve such lofty aspirations.

As the men's college basketball season heats up, one team has separated itself from the rest of the pack and stands alone--and rightfully so. No, I'm not talking about Memphis, who probably by now has won over 20 games or so--I've honestly lost count. The team to which I am referring is none other than the New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders, who are on the verge of a perfect season.

A perfectly winless season.

Currently sporting on an astonishing 0-24 record, the NJIT squad is ranked an unsurpassable 341 out of 341 Division I NCAA basketball teams. This is no mean feat. Starting off the season getting unceremoniously waxed by Manhattan (8-14) by a score 70-28, they haven't looked back, nor have they looked forward; in fact, one would be hard pressed to determine that they have affixed their gaze in any discernable direction all season. Along the way, they've succumbed to each and every perennial powerhouse they've met: stoned by Stony Brook (4-18), lambasted by Longwood (3-20), mauled by the Maine Black Bears (5-16), just to name a few.

This is just their second season as a Division I Independent since moving up from Division II, and they've come a long way since their inaugural 5-24 record. Only two other teams have gone totally defeated: Savannah State (2004-05) and Prairie View (1991-92), both going 0-28. But can they pull off a season of such distinction? Unlike the 2007 Miami Dolphins (1-15), I believe they have it in them, and whatever "it" is might have to be surgically removed.
Here is their remaining schedule (with each opponent's record and CBS Sportsline RPI rank in parentheses):

Feb 9: @UT-Pan American (9-13, #297)
Feb 13: @La Salle (8-11, #194)
Feb 16: Chicago St. (7-15, #205)
Feb 18: @Longwood (3-20, #332)
Feb 23: @Utah Valley St. (9-13, #246)

As you can see, virtually nothing stands in their way of achieving perfection. Of these final 5 games, 4 are on the road, 3 of which are against teams who have already soundly thrashed them, and the other is at LaSalle, to which they should easily surrender a win. And I don't know how many college basketball fans have filled Newark's 1,500 seat Estelle and Zoom Fleisher Athletic Center to witness history (I'm going to guess not many), but that Chicago State game will be their final chance to do so.

Can this team go all the way and nail down that elusive Perfect Season? So far they've made it appear effortless; not only do the players seem to be up to the task, but Coach Jim Casciano seems to know how to get them to not to perform. It's like the movie "The Perfect Storm"; as you may recall, all the characters drowned at the end. However, this is a group that cannot be started. I say they will finish the season exactly the way they started it, and get it done.

0-29: The Perfect Season. It's so close you can practically taste it coming back up.

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