It’s nice to have friends, or relatives, in high places.
Penn State Behrend men’s basketball coach Dave Niland, whose team makes a 7-hour trip to Holland, Mich., to face Hope College in Friday’s opening round of the NCAA Division III tournament, has a scheduled stop halfway there in Ann Arbor Thursday evening to practice at the University of Michigan’s Crisler Arena.
Niland’s cousin is Michigan coach John Beilein.
“It’s something special for our kids, and John is really happy to let us work out there,’’ Niland said. “He’s especially giddy, because Michigan won the outright Big Ten championship for the first time in about 30 years.’’
Make that 28, as the Wolverines crushed Illinois 84-53 Tuesday night for their first outright title since 1986.
“We will be able to work out, then make the rest of the trip instead of driving seven hours, then practicing,’’ said Niland, who played for Beilein at Division II LeMoyne in Syracuse, N.Y., in the late 1980s.
Behrend (23-4) won its second straight AMCC Tournament and will face the Flying Dutchmen (20-7) at DeVos Arena, a 3,400-seat facility that might be filled Friday. Hope is a traditional power that has won 37 titles in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, America’s oldest collegiate conference.
– Bob Jarzomski