Friends, the college basketball season starts tonight! That’s pretty neat.
There are a few big games featuring schools that everybody has heard of, like West Virginia taking on Texas A&M, or Alabama battling Memphis, or big name teams playing against mid-major programs that are consistently solid, like Northern Iowa’s opening game against North Carolina.
But unlike other sports, this isn’t really a showcase event. Most power programs are playing low-major schools as a warm-up before more difficult games tip off later this month.
And the smaller schools that don’t get invited to be a power program body bag? Well, they need an opening night game too. And that means one of my favorite college basketball traditions: the celebration of schools nobody thought existed.
Let’s take a look at some of our favorites.
Wheelock College vs. New Hampshire
Wheelock, according to Wikipedia, has an undergraduate enrollment of 811 students, the size of a small high school. The Wildcats are a D3 program.
Bob Jones vs. Furman
Bob Jones isn’t just one dude but also a conservative Christian college that recently restarted its intercollegiate athletics program. It competes at the D2 level.
Carver Bible College vs. Georgia State
Man, Carver Bible doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page:
Florida Memorial vs. Florida International
Florida International is already one of our most made-up sounding D1 athletics programs (sounds more like an airport, right?), and now it’s playing what sounds like a golf tournament. But the Fighting Lions are part of a real school, playing in the very real Florida Sun conference, in the NAIA.
Piedmont International vs. Coastal Carolina
OK, I lied. THIS is the golf tournament.
(But actually it’s a private Bible college with an enrollment under 1,000.)
Wisconsin-La Crosse vs. Milwaukee
I know it can be hard to schedule an opening night opponent, but was Milwaukee really so hard up that it had to schedule a completely different sport?
Antelope Valley vs. San Jose State
Antelope Valley was my favorite Red Dead Redemption level, personally.
Also, disappointed to learn that Antelope Valley’s mascot is not, in fact, an antelope, or anything particularly related to antelopes.
Life Pacific vs. Cal State Northridge
Cal State is opening its basketball season against an insurance company.
Our Lady of the Lake vs. Texas A&M Corpus Christi
Women lying in ponds distributing swords may be no way to run a government, but maybe it’s a good way to run an offense.
SIU-Edwardsville vs. Purdue
I’m sorry...a Purdue? That can’t be right. Y’all are just messing with me. That’s not a school.
Most of these teams are going to lose on opening night, perhaps by big margins. But it sure seems like at least once a year, one of these D3 programs pulls the upset, leading to everybody on Twitter screenshotting the box score and frantically trying to figure out where this school is. That’s one of the fun things about this sport!
So here’s to Our Lady of the Lake, my new second-favorite college basketball team, pulling off a stunner tonight. After all, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about college basketball, it’s where the unexpected becomes the ordinary.