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Men’s team will face top two winningest programs in college

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NKU’s men’s basketball team will be playing several high profile teams this season. This includes the two winningest college basketball programs in the nation, the Kentucky Wildcats (2,111 program wins) and the North Carolina Tar Heels (2090 program wins).

Both head Coach Dave Bezold and point guard Todd Johnson hope these big games will be a learning experience for the relatively young Norse.

“Are we ready for them? Probably not, as a program,” Bezold said. “But that’s okay. The experience of being able to go to these programs that are the best in college basketball ever, is a great opportunity for a program. And to me, that’s the way I think we’ve got to go about building it to when we’re eligible for the NCAA tournament. And really, getting our exposure, not just regionally, but nationally.”

Johnson, a sophomore organizational leadership major, said last year the team had leaders in players like Eshuante “Bear” Jones, Ethan Faulkner and Ernest “Stretch” Watson.

“They were all experienced players,” Johnson said. “We’re a little young this year, so we’ve got to be better leaders, us sophomores who were here last year.”

Johnson said that, even though the team may not win against these high-profile schools, it’s going to be a learning experience and that they’re going to grow as a team.

“We’re all going to come together as a team and lead together,” Johnson said.

Assistant coach Kevin Schappell hopes that this leadership and spirit is present for every game.

“To me, as a coach, I think every game’s as big as the next. We’ve got to try to win them all,” Schappell said. “I know the fans are all excited when we play the big teams, but we’re excited for every game we play.”

Among the Norse’s other big games is their season opener against the Purdue University Boilermakers and the Morehead State Eagles, whom the Norse haven’t faced since 1992 or 1993, according to Bezold.

The Norse have what is referred to as a “home-and-home trade” with the Eagles, where Morehead will play at The Bank of Kentucky Center this season against the Norse, according to Director of Sports Information Don Owen. The two teams will meet again at Morehead next season, Owen said.

Big 10 and Scheduling

The Norse open the season at Purdue this Friday.

Last season, the team played the Ohio State Buckeyes. Both Purdue and OSU are in the Big 10 Conference.

However, assistant coach Kevin Schappell, who does a lot of the team’s scheduling, said there aren’t currently any plans for the team to compete more within the Big 10.

“Our goal in scheduling is to try to play a couple big teams a year, at least one of them locally, so our fans can get up to the game,” Schappell said. “This year, it’s Kentucky. Our fans can get there pretty easily. Purdue, that’s a little further, but our fans can get to that one as well. And North Carolina is more difficult, but our goal is to try to play as many big schools every year that are close regionally.”

Schappell said that where the players are from have a lot to do with where the team travels to, as well.

“This year, we’re going to Purdue,” Schappel said. “Part of the reason is Cole Murray, a freshman, he’s from Delphi, Indiana, which is 10 minutes from Purdue’s campus. Last year, we went to Hampton, [Virginia], for Stretch. He’s from D.C., so his whole family could come see.”

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Men’s team will face top two winningest programs in college