Exhibition to bring Norse to new level

It’s just an exhibition game. Louisville vs. NKU shouldn’t mean that much in the grand scheme of things. It is, after all, a meaningless game.

But really, it isn’t. NKU’s Bank of Kentucky Center will be christened with its first basketball game ever played there.

Although it won’t count in this season’s standings, we may have, at the very least, a glimpse of what the fourth-ranked ranked team in the country will have in store in its first year in the BOKC. Players certainly have their work cut out for them, though.

Louisville, picked third in the country by the basketball pundits, brings Earl Clark, sharpshooter Jerry Smith, Andre McGee, freshman sensation Samardo Samuels and, love him or hate him, Rick Pitino to little ol’ Highland Heights. Louisville will be at or near the top of the Big East, and maybe nationally, five months from now.

It may not seem like a big deal, but it’s not everyday a prestigious Division I program comes to a Division II campus, exhibition or not.

The game might not count, but it might give us a barometer as to where this Norse team stands. Is a No. 4 ranking too high? If they are at least competitive against any Rick Pitino-led squad, especially one that’s favored to win the Big East and contend for the national title, the answer might be no. Again, it’s “just” an exhibition game.

And, again, while this game probably won’t make or break the 2008-09 season, it’s really a big game. New venue, new players, new season. The BOKC is a much more attractive place to play, all due respect to Regents. It can be used as a tool for more local and regional talent to come here, and, if the Dave Bezold era has taught us anything, more Division I transfers will be on their way here, too.

Not only is this a big game for the men’s team to show if they are worthy of a high national ranking, it’s a big game for the university and the Northern Kentucky Community. Little Ol’ Northern Kentucky State College has become a beacon of excellence for its athletics and academics. The BOKC is just another way to show how far this area and university have come.

NKU probably doesn’t have the horses to keep up with any Rick Pitino team. And that by no means is a knock on NKU. It’s a fact of life; Big East beats GLVC any day of the week. But the game’s bigger than that. It goes to show that the state of Kentucky has made an enormous investment to this area.

If they do lose, the game doesn’t count anyway.