‘Cats face Big Ten opponents


Over the past week, two Division II GLIAC basketball teams have defeated Division I Big Ten Conference opponents in exhibition play.

When the NMU men’s basketball team travels to East Lansing to take part in the O’Reily Auto Parts CBE classic Nov. 11 through Nov. 14, there will be another opportunity for that to happen.

The CBE classic is held on four campus sites around the country – Michigan State, Maryland, Missouri and UCLA. Winners of the regionals go on to compete for the tournament championship Nov. 19 and Nov. 20 in Kansas City, Mo..

In the first round of the tournament, NMU takes on Division I Lousiana-Monroe. Michigan State will play against Chicago State in the other game. If both NMU and Michigan State win the first round games, NMU would play MSU in the championship of that region; the losers will play each other for the consolation game.

MSU head coach Tom Izzo has ties to NMU, having graduated from NMU in ’77 and growing up in the Upper Peninsula town of Iron Mountain. Izzo and NMU head coach Dean Ellis are also friends, and stay in touch.

MSU was defeated by a GLIAC team on Nov. 3, when Grand Valley State visited MSU and won in doubled overtime. Ellis said it was unlikely that NMU would follow suit.

“I wouldn’t do that to Izzo. I told him, if it’s close, we’ll lose on purpose,” Ellis said. “He can’t take two losses to Division II teams. He’d get way too much heat.”

Ellis said, rather than concentrating on defeating State, he was going to approach the games like he would any other exhibition, adding that he would try to play as many players as possible.

“What you’re trying to do is get yourself better for the opener, and that’s what we’re trying to do in these two games,” he said.

After Grand Valley’s defeat of MSU, another Big Ten team fell to a GLIAC opponent Nov. 6 when Findlay defeated 2007 NCAA tournament runner-up Ohio State.

“With those two teams, Findlay and Grand Valley, there’s no issues,” Ellis said. “They know exactly who’s going to play where and how they’re going to play. They’re out there trying to win, and the Big Ten schools are out there experimenting.”

Ellis added that the exposure the wins have given the GLIAC and Division II has been good publicity.

“It’s great for our league and it’s great for Division II to be able to play those games,” he said, “And every year there’s some upsets.”

For NMU, though, the main objective is to provide players with game experience, Ellis said.

In exhibition games, your primary thought is to play a lot of people,” he said. “Get yourself in game situations where you want to work on things and see how your personnel looks.”