Dan Weber: Time for NKU-Thomas More Regular Basketball Series?

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Detroit Mercy @ NKU 177

Dan Weber writes a sports column for LINK nky. Reach him via email at [email protected]. Photos from the NKU men’s basketball game, posted in the slideshow below, were produced by LINK nky photographer Brian Frey.

Northern Kentucky’s four college basketball teams – men and women – have had things pretty much going their way in recent weeks. By our count, the Thomas More men and women and the NKU men and women had won 48 of their last 49 games. Yeah, that’s right, 48 of 49 after a tough start for the NKU men.

TMU’s No. 1 NAIA women had a 20-game win streak going, the No. 7 men had won 11 straight. Over at Highland Heights, the men had picked it up to win the last six in a row with the women winning 11 of their last 12.

But the next time you head out to Kroger or Florence Mall count the number of college license plates, sweatshirts, jackets, caps and if see if you can spot anything but the UK Wildcats gear. Here’s a tip: If you see someone with TMU or NKU colors on, you must be within walking distance of either campus.

And maybe that’s a good thing when you something like last weekend happens. Wipeout weekend, we’ll call it. When everyone here lost. Except UK, of course. Would not have thought that was possible. But there it was.

Thomas More lost both conference games at the University of Cumberlands with the TMU women dropping an 87-79 game to a team they’d beaten 81-60 in December at home. The TMU men fell to a similar 21-2 record as the women with their second loss to Cumberlands, this one 78-73.

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But the bad basketball news didn’t end in Kenton County. The NKU men, after six in a row including an originally postponed Friday win over league-leading Oakland in overtime, 87-78, fell to Detroit Mercy Saturday, 74-68, to end the NKU win streak and a five-game home stand.

Unfortunately for the 12-10 NKU men, they embark on a five-game road trip Wednesday at Milwaukee. Not sure what kind of conference schedules teams for five-game stands — home or road — in February but clearly the Horizon does.

Which is the good news for the 16-5 NKU women. They get to come home after falling 59-56 on the road at Cleveland State to drop to 8-5 in the league. But they now get the five opponents the men had at home — Milwaukee, Green Bay, Wright State, Detroit Mercy and Cleveland State.

But here’s a suggestion for the two local schools now that we’re getting to that mid-February stretch of the season when everybody — the fan base included — starts looking to the postseason.

Which is where we might take a cue from the big leagues who — obviously at the bidding of their TV rights holders — are playing Big-12-SEC and ACC-Big Ten conference-vs.-conference matchups. And their fans love it.

So here we go with this pitch. How about an NKU-TMU doubleheader — men’s and women’s — at the BB&T Arena as soon as the teams can get it going. Next year would be our call.

The Saints are moving back into the NCAA — Division II– in a year. And they’ve been playing with a national excellence that has drawn a following with their overwhelmingly local rosters.

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If Indiana can play the Northern men and the Northern men can play Alice Lloyd, there has to be room on the NKU schedule — and in a BB&T Arena that was paid for in part with taxpayer dollars of all Northern Kentuckians – for a Northern Kentucky Shootout or Classic or whatever you want to call it.

Seems like a natural opportunity for a sponsor like St. Elizabeth Healthcare or maybe a Skyline. How about a deal where Thomas More keeps all the money from the tickets it sells and NKU keeps everything else including the walkups. And Northern Kentucky benefits by putting another event into BB&T.

And yeah, we can hear the objections now. The men’s teams have played only once in the last 15 years and just seven times this century because NKU won the last seven games by an average 32.5 points. But that’s not the case now.

The women are even more out of whack. They’ve played just five times in 47 seasons. Only twice in the last 25 years. And the margin, which the 79-20 and 74-29 scores in the first season these teams played and set the tone, has been an average 44.8 points a game. With a couple of national championship seasons behind TMU now, although obviously not in Division I, that would not happen in a matchup if these teams played this season.

And it would be a real pick-me-up for the fans, a reason to buy some team gear and do some backyard bragging now that Thomas More has clearly earned a place on the floor with NKU.

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And it would be repaying a TMU program that was humming along with a team that had beaten Xavier in the early 1970s when it played start-up NKU. And in the second-ever game in this series, dropped a 106-101 overtime thriller to NKU in one of the best games ever played at Regents Hall.

But if you want to say that conference play for both schools matters too much, although neither is really in a league where anybody in Northern Kentucky cares much for the teams. And that’s not a shot at all the big-city Northern rivals up north in places like Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, Chicago.

Nor a shot at Thomas More’s rivals in small southern towns that are barely towns. But give the Norse and Saints fans a shot at one another’s teams, even if it made more sense to do this early in November or December, this may surely be time to do it.

And the teams do share something even if not a single person affiliated with either program realizes it. The season sponsor for NKU basketball is the Rebel Mettle Brewery. The Thomas More athletic teams, when they were playing as Villa Madonna College for all those years, were the Rebels.

This matchup is a natural right now for Northern Kentucky. 

JUST SAYIN’.

— Dan Weber