The New Jersey Institute of Technology is the lone independent in Division I. Coming into today's matchup with Michigan, it was ranked 293rd in KenPom with a 2-5 record and two losses this season to UMass-Lowell -- which is only in its second year of Division I competition.
None of that mattered today though, as the Highlanders defeated the 17th-ranked Wolverines 72-70 in what will likely be the biggest upset of the season. Damon Lynn paced NJIT with 20 points, including six 3-pointers, as the Highlanders shot 58.7 percent from the field.
By the way, that 58.7 percent from the field mark? It was completely deserved. Michigan's defense today was an absolute disaster, allowing the Highlanders to get wherever they wanted on the floor. Maybe the 11-17 mark from 3-point range was a little bit outrageous, especially when Lynn hit two contested ones in final sequences of the game. However, that's why you can't just defend for the final 10 minutes of a game and expect to come out with a win. The Highlanders got out to a 51-44 lead at one point because Michigan let them, and because of stellar offensive execution.
To only call this an upset is probably underselling it a bit, honestly. According to Bet Labs, NJIT's win over Michigan is the biggest upset in terms of point spread since 2007, when Gardner-Webb beat Kentucky.
NJIT's win over Michigan as a 24.5 point dog is the biggest upset in terms of the spread since 2007 (Gardner Webb +26 at Kentucky in 2007).— Bet Labs Software (@Bet_Labs) December 6, 2014
This is an absolutely fantastic and well-deserved win for Jim Engles at NJIT. The Highlanders have been on the precipice of a breakthrough for all season, with a tight loss to Marquette and win over Duquesne. It's an incredible turnaround for a program that lost EVERY game that it played from February 24, 2007 to January 17, 2009. That 51-game losing streak would have been a record, but the NCAA does not count reclassifying schools in its official records. That 2008-09 season was Engles first in charge, and even though the Highlanders went 1-30 that year, it began a steady climb towards a relevance within the Division I classification. Even though he apparently had this game circled as a loss coming into the game, he deserves all of the congratulations in the world for this win.
NJIT coach admitted he had this game pencilled in as a L. Has said a few times that he doesn't know what to say.— Matt Pargoff (@MaizeBlueNews) December 6, 2014
On the other side this game points to some pretty significant problems for the Wolverines. Their defense was an absolute problem from the start, allowing the Highlanders to have an open layup line to the hoop. I'm not exaggerating when I say that either. I made a cut of the open layups Michigan allowed to the Highlanders, and I'm not even sure I got them all.
Caris LeVert was beyond phenomenal, setting a career high with 32 points on 11-18 shooting, and Derrick Walton scored 16 of his own, but no one else stepped up for Michigan. Zak Irvin had probably the worst game of his career in a Wolverine uniform, going 2-11 for five points. This game proved that offensively, they'll need someone else to step up and take the load on every night, otherwise it's going to be tough for them. It's not a particularly deep team, so secondary scoring could be an issue all year.
They move to 6-2, with their only good result of the season coming over Syracuse in a close home win. That loss dropped them from 20th to 36th in KenPom, which is possibly the largest single game drop I've ever seen for a team inside the top 50.
With only that Syracuse win to point to, this could turn into a disastrous non-conference slate for the Wolverines. The Orange have looked inconsistent, and it's questionable whether or not it's a tournament team. Michigan still has a chance to pick up a win over Arizona, but does anyone see that happening after watching they way they defended today? SMU also remains, but the Mustangs may have Markus Kennedy back for that game, making it a tough one for the Wolverines inside.
But the bigger key for this team is now figuring out its defense. If that happens, the Wolverines could still be the second-best team in the Big Ten. But without it, they're going to have some serious problems in conference play.