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Northern hosting Small College Basketball Champions Classic

Northern State University men’s basketball coach Saul Phillips, left, talks to his players during a time out in a game last season at the Dacotah Bank Classic at Wachs Arena. Northern is hosting a major two-day tournament Friday and Saturday. Photo by John Davis taken 11/26/2021

Small college men’s basketball lives at Wachs Arena.

At least, it does for the next two days. Wachs Arena will play host to the inaugural Small College Basketball Champions Classic, which will feature 12 games over Friday and Saturday.

It’s essentially wall-to-wall action for any basketball-loving fan.

“You could have a wolf dog for breakfast, lunch and dinner if you wanted,” quipped Northern State coach Saul Phillips.

A total of 12 teams – four each from NCAA Division II, Division III and NAIA – will participate in the event. Division III teams include Illinois Wesleyan, Nebraska Wesleyan, Wisconsin Oshkosh and St. Joseph (Conn.).

NAIA teams include Carroll (Mont.), Morningside (Iowa), Indiana Wesleyan and Dakota Wesleyan.

Division II teams include the host Wolves, Minnesota Duluth, Ferris State (Mich.) and Point Loma Nazarene (Calif.)

“It’s a heck of an event,” Phillips said. “It’s pretty unique.”

The teams include national title contenders at each level, including the Wolves and Ferris State, which squared off in the Division II national championship in 2018.

Small College Basketball already hosts the Hall of Fame Classic, which features an all-Division II field. Northern State has participated in that event on two different occasions, including the 2021 edition. It was during that appearance that Small College Basketball president John McCarthy approached former Northern State athletic director Josh Moon about the creation of a new event.

Thus, the Champions Classic was born.

“This is such a great venue and great community for basketball,” Phillips said. “That’s really how it came about. John McCarthy identified this as a place to do it.”

Northern has led the Division II nation in attendance for the past 13 seasons. McCarthy and the Wolves announced the partnership in the spring of 2021, with the 2022 Classic serving as the inaugural event. The partnership is a multi-year one.

Games begin at 10 a.m. each day with two Division III contests kicking off the slate. A pair of NAIA games will follow in the 2 and 4 p.m. time slots, with the Division II games finishing off the day with 6 and 8 p.m. starts.

Northern will play the 6 p.m. game each day.

A full schedule of games, plus livestreaming and live stats links can be found at:

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