Although his men's basketball team was predicted to lose its exhibition game against UNC last week, Mount Olive College coach Bill Clingan had entered into a win-win situation.
Sure, the final score of 100-69 in the Tar Heels' favor wasn't his ideal outcome. But the coach obviously cared more about getting his players the experience that comes with playing a major power such as UNC than with actually winning the game.
The NCAA recently ruled that Division I men's basketball teams can only play exhibition games against other college teams, which means that schools like Mount Olive could be seeing more top-tier opponents in pre-season play in coming years. D-I squads no longer can play teams such as the EA Sports All-Stars.
NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson told The Los Angeles Times that "limiting these exhibition contests to other four-year collegiate institutions is a healthier environment overall and eliminates the potential for problems." It's healthier because schools now don't have the option of paying noncollege teams to play in the hopes of recruiting their players.
UNC's own basketball coach has been scheduling exhibitions against non-Division I opponents since his days at the University of Kansas. Roy Williams told the Goldsboro News-Argus that - like those games - last year's match-up between the Tar Heels and N.C. Central University was a positive experience for both programs.
Many of the traveling teams consist of players who aren't in peak physical condition and who would rather showboat than play as hard as they can for 40 minutes. Though the talent level of the better D-I schools and D-II programs aren't comparable, the lower-tiered teams can pass, press and play hard for entire games.
UNC isn't just doing charity work when it puts a school like Mount Olive on the schedule - the Tar Heels are ensuring a good warm-up before the season kicks into high gear.
Mount Olive's team didn't really stand a chance against the Tar Heels. And yet, its players undoubtedly still were excited about the opportunity to challenge such a major force in men's college basketball.
It's good that UNC and other big teams are giving smaller schools that chance.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.