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Big Ten Basketball Schedule Analysis: 2023 Exhibition Games

A schedule of Big Ten basketball exhibition games. But, more importantly, ranking the nicknames of the opposing teams!

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Syndication: USA TODAY Joseph Cress/For the Register / USA TODAY NETWORK

Big Ten basketball season is nearby upon us, with basketball tipping off a week from Monday. Be sure to catch all the excellent previews that MaximumSam, BoilerUp89, and Larry31 have been running around OTE.

In the meantime, though, most Big Ten teams have an exhibition contest lined up, usually against a team from a lower division of college athletics. Here’s that information, only with some rankings of each of those teams’ nicknames and logos.

Note: I did my best here to scour each team’s website and make sure I got their games. There’s a chance I missed something. I don’t regret the error(s), but you’re obviously welcome to point any out in the comments.

Sirs and Madams Not Appearing in This Film

The Fundraisers

It feels unfair to add Division I programs into these celebrated* rankings—plus, money’s being raised for good causes. So let’s just celebrate that.

Iowa Hawkeyes (women) vs. DePaul Blue Demons

Sunday, October 15 | 2pm | BTN | Stead Family Children’s Hospital | Iowa, 94-72

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (men) at St. John’s Red Storm

Saturday, October 21 | 2pm | Dick Vitale Pediatric Cancer Research Fund | SJU, 89-78 (2OT)

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (women) at South Carolina Gamecocks

Sunday, October 22 | 12pm | In the Middle | Sakerlina, 110-55

Ohio State Buckeyes (men) at Dayton Flyers

Sunday, October 22 | 5pm | Bally Sports Ohio | Jim’s Light (Mental Health) | OSU, 78-70

Penn State Nittany Lions (men) at Robert Morris Colonials

Friday, October 27 | 6pm | ESPN+ | Coaches vs. Cancer

Purdue Boilermakers (men) at Arkansas Razorbacks

Saturday, October 28 | 3pm | SECN+ | United Way

Maryland Terrapins (women) vs. East Carolina Pirates

Sunday, October 29 | 11am | B1G+ | Special Olympics Maryland—Prince George’s County

Michigan State Spartans (men) vs. Tennessee Volunteers

Sunday, October 29 | 2:30pm | BTN | Maui Relief

The Rankings

Most importantly—we are here to rank team nicknames of basketball programs from odd corners of the world, hauled into Big Ten stadiums to play a mostly meaningless exhibition (unless your Big Ten team loses, of course). Rankings are, as all things I do, completely on a whim and best disregarded. However, you might learn something.

19. Ottawa Braves

Conference: Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (NAIA)
Opponent: Illinois Fighting Illini (men)
Date: October 20
Result: Illinois, 116-65

You have to* respect two programs that really combine to say “Hey, how can we strive for the most problematic nicknames possible?

Ottawa, a private Baptist university founded in 1865, at least apparently bought their land from the local Indigenous populations in Kansas. The first board of trustees at the school was made up of four Native and two White leaders.

Fun* fact: in 1972 the Braves won the Mineral Water Bowl, a real bowl game that exists!

18. Hillsdale Chargers

Conference: Great Midwest Athletic Conference (D-II)
Opponent: Michigan State Spartans (men)
Date: Wednesday, October 25 (6pm)

Why would you schedule this game, Sparty?

Fun* fact: Fuck Hillsdale.

17. Davenport Panthers

Conference: Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
Opponent: Michigan State Spartans [women]
Date: Thursday, November 2 (5:30pm)

I go to Grand Rapids almost every year. More often than not, now, I fly into Gerald Ford International Airport.

I have never heard of Davenport.

I’m also unconvinced that logo isn’t just Georgia State’s but painted red.

16. McKendree Bearcats

Conference: Great Lakes Valley Conference (D-II)
Opponent: Northwestern Wildcats (men)
Date: Wednesday, November 1 (7pm)

That resplendent feline’s name, Wikipedia tells me, is Bogie the Bearcat. I don’t know what else to tell you about McKendree, other than that they’re from Lebanon, Illinois, which is in both the Metro-East region of St. Louis and the “Little Egypt” region of southern Illinois.

Fun* fact: McKendree has won two NCAA D-I bowling championships, sweeping Nebraska 4-0 in 2017.

T-14. Dakota Wesleyan Tigers

Conference: Great Plains Athletics Conference (NAIA)
Opponent: Nebraska Cornhuskers (women)
Date: Sunday, October 29 (12pm)

Dakota Wesleyan is a small, religiously-affiliated school located in Mitchell, South Dakota. I have only had pleasant interactions there, though I once was driving home from DWU and started getting chills, only for my wife to text me that she and the kid, back home, had strep throat.

But that wasn’t Dakota Wesleyan’s fault.

The most important things to know about Dakota Wesleyan:

  1. It’s the home of George McGovern, and
  2. The basketball teams play their home games in the CORN PALACE.

T-14. Doane Tigers

Conference: GPAC (NAIA)
Opponent: Nebraska Cornhuskers (men)
Date: Sunday, October 29 (5pm)

Kinda reminds me of the tiger from Aladdin, if that’s even the right Disney movie. Anyhow, I salute Nebraska for the thriftiness to schedule two different GPAC schools with Tiger mascots for a Sunday double-feature.

Doane is named, per Wikipedia, for the chief engineer of the Burlington & Missouri Railroad, joining Stanford and Vanderbilt in the “Schools Named for Railroad People” category I’m going to write on Wikipedia.

13. Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks

Conference: Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletics Conference (D-III)
Opponent: Wisconsin Badgers (women)
Date: Sunday, October 29 (1pm)

This is not a real bird. LOWER ON THE RANKINGS.

UW-Whitewater is famously good at football and, Wikipedia tells me, became the only school in history to win championships in football, men’s basketball, and baseball all in one academic year, which they did in 2014 but is generously calling what Whitewater does “academics”.

12. Quincy Hawks

Conference: Great Lakes Valley Conference (D-II)
Opponent (men): Iowa Hawkeyes [10/30, 7pm]
Opponent (women): Purdue Boilermakers [10/29, 1pm]

Points for the decently-realistic hawk, but the rest is just a yawn for me. It’s a bird, we get it.

Upon second thought, I moved this logo up from 18th to 13th—something about those feathers just get me. Or maybe it’s that hawk’s disapproving look.

Fun* fact: The Hawks compete in one D-I sport: men’s volleyball.

11. Truman State Bulldogs

Conference: Great Lakes Valley Conference (D-II)
Opponent: Illinois Fighting Illini (women)
Date: Monday, October 30 (6pm)

As far as logos go, this is a pretty excellent one—the split “T” is working for me, and Spike the Bulldog leaping at the viewer is a cool look.

To go with being named for Harry Truman in 1996 (after about 10 different iterations implying that it was a teachers’ college in northeast Missouri), Truman State plays its basketball games in John J. Pershing Arena. Pershing was born near nearby Laclede.

However, the Bulldogs stay this low on the list because they are evolution’s cruel joke.

10. Saginaw Valley State Cardinals

Conference: Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference (D-II)
Opponent: Michigan Wolverines (women)
Date: Thursday, November 2 (6pm)

The sign that I have become—or am becoming, lest I get your angry comments about how I’m not that old—a middle-aged man who enjoys bird-watching: a sad-looking hawk is lower on the rankings than a cardinal. A number of cardinals and blue jays nested somewhere near our house, and they made my day whenever I saw them.

Saginaw Valley State is located in University Center, Michigan, which is in what the internet tells me is either called the “purlicue” or the “thenar web space” of the hand—the skin between your thumb and index finger.

The more you know!

9. Marian Knights

Conference: Crossroads Conference (NAIA)
Opponent: Indiana Hoosiers (men)
Date: Friday, November 3 (5:30pm)

Things That the Marian Knights Are Not, A List:

  1. Marian in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin: I wish they’d try, because “Sabres” is an infinitely cooler name, but Marian (Indianapolis) is run by the Sisters of St. Francis, while Marian (WI) is run by the Sisters of St. Agnes.
  2. Marian Knight: Marian Knight MBE is a British physician who is a Professor of Maternal and Child Population Health at the University of Oxford. She is an Honorary Consultant of Public Health for Public Health England. During the COVID-19 pandemic Knight studied the characteristics and outcomes of pregnant women who tested positive for COVID-19.”

Hope that clears something up for you.

8. Grace College Lancers

Conference: Crossroads (NAIA)
Opponent: Purdue Boilermakers (men)
Date: Wednesday, November 1 (6pm)

I’m honestly not sure if I love or hate the “G” stylized to look like a knight helmet.

I’ve been staring at this for at least 10 minutes.

100 people are going to read this article.

Grace is a private, evangelical college in Winona Lake, Indiana, which Wikipedia claims is “the major suburb of Warsaw, Indiana.” That’s a helluva brag, gang.

7. Clarke Pride

Conference: Heart of America Athletic Conference (HAAC)
Opponent: Iowa Hawkeyes (women)
Date: Sunday, October 22 (2pm)
Result: Iowa, 122-49

We should use more animal collectives as team names. For example:

  • Baltimore Ravens —> Baltimore Conspiracy
  • Colorado Buffaloes —> Colorado Obstinacy
  • Campbell Fightin’ Camels —> Campbell Caravan
  • Northwestern Wildcats —> Northwestern Clowder
  • Temple Owls —> Temple Parliament
  • Adelaide Crows —> Adelaide Murder
  • Boston College Eagles —> Boston College Convocation
  • EMU Eagles —> Mob Convocation

Clarke is a Catholic university in Dubuque. Dubuque is a city in Iowa, which is also where Caitlin Clark plays basketball. Iowa fans feel very strongly that you be told this at every opportunity.

6. Lewis Flyers

Conference: Great Lakes Valley Conference (D-II)
Opponent: Northwestern Wildcats (women)
Date: Thursday, November 2 (7pm)

Located in the Chicago suburb of Romeoville, Lewis—run by the Christian Brothers, not the Christian Brothers of St. Jean-Baptiste De La Salle—has from its founding in 1932 focused on aviation technology.

Fun* fact: Lewis University lends its name to the nearby public-use airport. Take that, Purdue!

They also got rid of this bitchin’ logo, which was a real mistake:

5. Indianapolis Greyhounds

Conference: Great Lakes Valley Conference (D-II)
Opponent: Indiana Hoosiers (men)
Date: Sunday, October 29 (12pm)

Repping UIndy, to those in the know, the Greyhounds have, in my mind, an unrealized rivalry with the SIU Salukis. Someone let them know.

Wikipedia also tells me that, since 2019, UIndy has had a live greyhound mascot, a retired racer named Grady. Someone give him pets.

4. Wisconsin-Stevens Point Pointers

Conference: Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletics Conference (D-III)
Opponent: Wisconsin Badgers (men)
Date: Wednesday, November 1 (7pm)

A VERY good boy. Or, rather, a good girl! While Stevie is the cartoon mascot, UWSP did have a live pointer in the 2000s, McKenzie.

UWSP basketball, in particular, has given the world Terry Porter. They also, however, have given the world Dick Bennett. So it’s a real “Column A, Column B”-type thing.

Thank goodness the Pointer is a great mascot and logo.

3. Northwood Timberwolves

Conference: Great Midwest Athletic Conference (D-II)
Opponent (women): Indiana Hoosiers [11/1, 6pm]
Opponent (men): Michigan Wolverines [11/3, 6pm]

I really don’t care for this logo, but “Timberwolves” is objectively a good name for a college sports team. Their old logo (from this branding guide, dated 2019) was much better. Why change it?

Fun* fact: Despite being located just 23 miles from Saginaw Valley State in the thenar web space, Northwood is no longer in the same conference as the Cardinals, having left the GLIAC for the GMAC in 2022. HOWEVER, the two sides still meet in their yearly rivalry game, the AXE BOWL:

More schools should play for weapons. I don’t get why they don’t.

2. Macalester Scots

Conference: Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletics Conference (D-III)
Opponent: Minnesota Golden Gophers (men)
Date: Thursday, November 2 (7pm)

One of the smart schools of the MIAC—I guess most of them pass muster now that St. Thomas is gone—Macalester is hemmed into a little campus in a nice neighborhood in St. Paul. It’s so comically small that their baseball field features a Green Monster-style chain link fence that stretches all the way around the entire outfield.


1. California (PA) Vulcans

Conference: Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (D-II)
Opponent: Maryland Terrapins (women)
Date: October 22 (2:30pm)
Result: Maryland, 103-37

[/guitar riff]


Already it’s a fun oddity, but two more facts about California (PA):

  1. Vulcans baseball plays in WILD THINGS PARK.

Fuckin’ “Chariots of Fire”, man. Hell yeah.

The Schedule

Alright. Hypothetically you’ve learned something. Ain’t nothing left to do but vote in the poll and let me know what I’ve gotten wrong in the comments.


Best nickname of the exhibition game opponents?

This poll is closed

  • 62%
    (58 votes)
  • 9%
    (9 votes)
  • 4%
    (4 votes)
  • 15%
    (14 votes)
  • 4%
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    (0 votes)
  • 2%
    (2 votes)
  • 2%
    Something else
    (2 votes)
93 votes total Vote Now