When Lincoln Memorial men’s basketball coach Josh Schertz looks at the other five teams participating in the inaugural Small College Basketball Hall of Fame Classic, he sees some of the best NCAA Division II basketball has to offer.
Lincoln Memorial, Alabama-Huntsville, Kentucky Wesleyan, Southern Indiana, Florida Southern and Bellarmine will each play two games over two days, starting Friday at the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind.
“Obviously, we were thrilled to be invited,” Schertz said. “When you look at it, you have some of the real blue blood programs in Division II. We are not there, yet. Our success has been more recent. It hasn’t been sustained. When you think about Division II basketball, Kentucky Wesleyan, Southern Indiana, Florida Southern, Bellarmine and Alabama-Huntsville come to mind. All have been about as good as anybody in the country the last six or seven years.
“We are honored to be included in that group and get the invitation. We look forward to competing against some of those teams and see where we stack up.”
Lincoln Memorial is climbing to the blue blood level. Last year the Railsplitters played in the national championship game.
The three-day event begins Thursday with the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. One of the most exciting aspects of the event occurs Saturday when all three games will be shown on WatchESPN and the ESPN app.
|Bellarmine||vs.||Alabama-Huntsville||Friday, Nov. 17, 4:30 p.m. ET|
|Kentucky Wesleyan||vs.||Lincoln Memorial||Friday, Nov. 17, 7:00 p.m. ET|
|Southern Indiana||vs.||Florida Southern||Friday, Nov. 17, 9:30 p.m. ET|
|Lincoln Memorial||vs.||Alabama-Huntsville||Saturday, Nov. 18, 4:30 p.m. ET|
|Bellarmine||vs.||Florida Southern||Saturday, Nov. 18, 7:00 p.m. ET|
|Southern Indiana||vs.||Kentucky Wesleyan||Saturday, Nov. 18, 9:30 p.m. ET|
“In the local area, bringing back the Kentucky Wesleyan/Southern Indiana is a big deal,” said Small College Basketball founder John McCarthy. “We expect a big crowd for that. It will be the final game of the Classic on Saturday. We think that will generate a big local buzz.
“This is a wonderful platform for the programs, the student-athletes, the coaches.”
Small College Basketball partnered with the Evansville Sports Corporation to help make this three-day event possible.
McCarthy called the Ford Center a beautiful arena that has recently played host to a couple of Division II Elite Eight tournaments. The venue will bring back fond memories for Florida Southern.
“Florida Southern, when they won the national title two years ago, they won it in the Ford Center,” McCarthy said. “It will be a neat homecoming for them. The last time they played here they won the national title.”
Schertz said these two games will let his team know exactly where it stands early in the season before conference play begins on Nov. 22. The Railsplitters lost five of their top eight players from last season, including their leading scorer.
“We graduated our two leading scorers,” Schertz said. “We are not going to be good unless the three core guys are special. They have to raise their level from last year when they were good players on a really good team. They have to become elite players.
“The new players have to develop and come along. We will be a team that will evolve. Competition like this will help us grow faster.”
Lincoln Memorial won its first two games, averaging 93 points. Schertz calls the games this Friday and Saturday measuring-stick games.
“Like anything, win or lose, we are going to get truth this weekend. We are going to get exposed in some areas,” Schertz said. “The better teams you play, the more they are capable of exposing you.
“If you handle that truth correctly, it can help expedite the learning curve quicker. If we don’t process truth correctly, it is a wasted weekend. We are going to get truth right between the eyes.”
Regardless of who wins the games, McCarthy will enjoy the competition and appreciate the programs that have helped make small college basketball special over the decades.
The reason McCarthy founded Small College Basketball was to promote the rich history of the game at this level.
In his mission statement, McCarthy writes: “We exist to unite all people with a passion for small college basketball and to serve as ambassadors for the game.”
He is thrilled the event was able to attract the teams that will participate in the inaugural event.
“Every single team has a tremendous history,” McCarthy said. “This is going to be a wonderful showcase for Division II basketball.”