When the Northwest Missouri State men’s basketball team hit the visiting court for a practice ahead of Friday night’s game, it would have been hard to miss the national-championship banners.
After all, there are five of them at Cameron Indoor Stadium, which puts Duke in elite company in Division I college basketball history.
One other unique thing about the Blue Devils: each year they play host to the defending Division II champions, which is Northwest Missouri. The exhibition game is Friday night, but the Bearcats have already had the opportunity to practice at Cameron Indoor Stadium and they shared photos on Facebook.
“As a kid you watch teams like KU at Allen Fieldhouse and you watch Duke on TV and to have this opportunity is so surreal cause you can play against them now,” Northwest Missouri senior Xavier Kurth told NewsPressNow.com.
Facing a Division II team may seem like a walk in the park for Duke, which is ranked first in the preseason coaches poll after finishing 28-9 last season. The Blue Devils routed Central Missouri 87-47 in 2014, but got a challenge from Drury a year earlier.
The game was tied 44-44 with less than 16 minutes to play before the Blue Devils pulled away and won 81-65.
In an interview with The Chronicle, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski noted that the Bearcats return Division II Player of the Year Justin Pitts, who averaged 20.9 points and 5.1 assists per game last season.
“They’ll be good,” Krzyzewski told The Chronicle. “They’ve won. They’re champions, and we’ve always had good games (against the Division II champions).”
Northwest Missouri coach Ben McCollum said he is serious about going for the upset, because it should help when the regular season starts.
“When you do that, and you make a mistake against Duke, they will expose it,” McCollum told the team’s website. “If we can prepare for Duke as if we are trying to win, then when you get to your season and play Division II opponents, hopefully, the things that were exposed against Duke, we can correct.”
Before heading to Cameron Indoor, the Bearcats swung by the Dean Smith Center, home of the Division I champion North Carolina. Here are photos they shared on Facebook: