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Oct. 26, 2017Durham, NC
Northwest Missouri State men's basketball hasn't shied away from the spotlight under head coach Ben McCollum. The program's won four straight MIAA regular season titles, reached at least the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament in each of the last four years, and finally broke through with the team's first national championship last spring.
The Bearcats' next challenge takes them to one of college basketball's most historic arenas -- Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Northwest meets No. 1 Duke University in an exhibition opener Friday night. Tip off is set for 6pm local time.
McCollum's squad has experience playing on a big stage, but it's ramped up even more on the Blue Devils home court where they're on a run of 422 consecutive sellouts.
"The thing that can get to you in a game like this with that many people is a nerves thing," McCollum said. "So you just have to be able to calm your nerves a little bit, play aggressive, try to get some of those nerves out in warmups where you're loud and borderline embarrass yourself so that you don't sit there and worry about what you look like during the game."
"If we can do that, especially early, I think that we can at least give them a good look."
The game will also feature an experienced group on the visitors side facing a very young team opposite them.
The Bearcats return their top two scorers from a season ago in national player of the year Justin Pitts (20.9 ppg) and Chris-Ebou Ndow (12.5 ppg), as well as five of the team's top eight contributors from a national championship season. Across the court, Duke features one senior (Grayson Allen) and eight freshman including the top recruit in the country, Marvin Bagley III.
The coaching matchup also features one of the top young coaches in the game going against one of the best of all-time. McCollum's posted a 176-71 record at Northwest Missouri State University, and after just eight seasons leading the program, is second on the school's all-time wins list. His counterpart is Mike Krzyzewski, coaching his 38th season at Duke and 43rd overall, who has amassed 1,071 wins and five national championships throughout his career.
"It'll be a fairly surreal experience just because he's Coach K," McCollum said. "He's obviously an unbelievable coach and has done a lot not only for basketball, but for his community."
"It'll be exciting. He's been great to us, and so has their whole staff, so we're excited to get out there."
To hear McCollum's full interview, click the play button above.
Pregame on KXCV 90.5 FM and KRNW 88.9 FM will begin at 5:40pm Friday from Durham, North Carolina.