NORFOLK (WAVY) – It’s a question a number of local college basketball fans ask every year. Why don’t the Norfolk State and Old Dominion basketball teams play each other every season?
It’s a fair question, and it’s one that may garner a different answer, depending on who you ask.
The two schools, both Division I programs, are separated by only 4 1/2 miles. And yet, Wednesday night’s game at Joe Echolls Hall will be just the third time the Spartans and Monarchs have met over the past 18 years.
“I still think it is ridiculous that we don’t play more often. We’re right there,” said NSU head coach Robert Jones, who has been out-spoken about this game for many years.
“Why wouldn’t we play? What’s really going on?
On the other hand, Jeff Jones is tired of hearing the question. “I don’t like this line of questioning, because somehow or another, it seems like there’s some sort of accusation or finger being pointed at Old Dominion. We’re going to do what’s best for us,” said Jones.
During his Tuesday zoom press conference, Jones pointed out that his team will have played the Spartans four times in nine years, once the home-and-home agreement plays out during the 2022-23 season.
“We don’t owe it to anybody, the same way Virginia Tech or Virginia don’t owe it to us,” said Jones. “We schedule who we need to schedule.”
Conventional wisdom says ODU is the bigger program whose NCAA Tournament resume would take a bigger hit from losing to Norfolk State. Robert Jones doesn’t buy that.
“We’re not playing Duke or anything like that,” said Jones, whose NSU program will host ODU at Joe Echolls Hall for the first time in 52 years on Wednesday night.
“I think Jeff does a great job. Jeff is a good man, honestly. No matter what we say about this rivalry, I think he’s a good coach, he’s a good man, he runs a great program, but to keep saying they have everything to lose, we are Division I. Not like we’re Virginia Wesleyan. If you lose to us, you didn’t’ lose to a Division III school.”
Wednesday night’s clash will be just the 20th time these two programs will have met, and it represents an opportunity for a Norfolk State program that will play with a chip on its shoulder.
“We hear about all these great programs in Virginia, and we don’t hear about ours enough,” said Jones. “We get a five-game check list on our schedule, and you can probably tell what those five games are.”
So far, the Spartans are 2-0 through that five-game checklist, with wins over James Madison and Radford. A win on Wednesday would be the first for NSU over ODU since 1999.