The NJIT Highlanders will replace Northern Kentucky—which is departing for the Horizon League—in the Atlantic Sun Conference for the upcoming season, meaning there are no independent Division I men’s basketball programs remaining.

In college football, independence was rare, reserved for the likes of high-and-mighty Notre Dame and its ludicrous NBC television deals, but NJIT doesn’t exactly boast the same history as the Fighting Irish. As a matter of fact, NJIT was at one point the worst program in the nation, losing 52-straight games—an NCAA record—before breaking the streak with a 61-51 victory against the Bryant Bulldogs back in 2009.

The Highlanders, who decided that winning was actually kind of fun after that fateful January victory, shocked everybody this past season when they upset then-No. 20 Michigan 72-70 in Ann Arbor in what also happened to be NJIT’s first-ever game against a ranked opponent. The Highlanders would go on to amass a 21-12 record and make a postseason run to the CIT semifinals.

Now that they’re not out in the cold all alone, I’m confident this is the year NJIT will truly realize its potential and be the first team to go from the CIT semifinalists to NCAA Tournament champs. You heard it here first. Highlanders 2016!

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Photo: AP