Carolina Basketball Preview: Heels Take on “Harvard on the Bayou”


A year and a half ago the only thing I knew about Nicholls State University was that the name occasionally showed up on my bracket sheet as a #15 or #16 seed. But that hasn’t even happened this century since Nicholls State has not punched its ticket to the Big Dance since 1998. Like many of you, I didn’t know where Nicholls State was located, let alone their mascot or conference affiliation. But in August of 2010, I found myself Bayou bound as part of my latest political assignment. I worked as a field organizer for a US Congressional race and operated out of campaign headquarters in Houma, LA. Houma is about an hour and a half southwest of New Orleans and about 30 minutes southeast of Thibodaux, LA, the home of the Nicholls State University Colonels. Thibodaux is located in LaFourche (pronounced La-FOOSH) Parish named for the Bayou of the same name. Nicholls alumni served on our campaign as both volunteers and paid staff, and they often referred to Nicholls as “Harvard on the Bayou” with tongue in cheek of course. You can even buy shirts with the catch phrase on Nicholls’ campus. Not buying one of these shirts remains one of my biggest regrets, but I was too busy calling half of the registered voters in Louisiana’s 3rd Congressional District. Not surprisingly, Nicholls State specializes in the fields of culinary arts and marine and environmental studies. It opened its doors in September 1948 and has an enrollment of roughly 6,500.

And guess what? Nicholls State also has a basketball team, and the Tar Heels host them Monday evening at the Smith Center. The Colonels are coming off an impressive 92-48 win over the Bleu Devils (nope I didn’t just misspell that ridiculously overrated school in Durham). The Bleu Devils hail from Dillard University in New Orleans, and that was a new one even on me. It makes me wonder. Is Dillard’s mascot a giant soufflé cup of molded cheese and does a flying hot wing launch into it after every touchdown? If it doesn’t, it should. Anyhow, Nicholls State is coming into the Dean Dome with a 4-7 overall record with their only real test being last week against Texas. True to form, Rick Barnes and the Longhorns won BIG and beat the Colonels like a drum 93-40. In order for the Heels to enjoy a similarly comfortable win, they must confront one of their defensive demons. They must defend against the three.

The Colonels are dangerous from the outside. They hit 13 three pointers in their season opener against LSU. If that number sounds familiar, it’s because that’s the same number UNLV threw down on the Heels in Vegas. Trevon Lewis and Lachlan Prest lead the Colonels shooting roughly 47% from behind the arc. However, look for Chris Talkington to contribute as well as he is 23 for 58 from long range this season. Talkington and Prest have each drained at least 4 three pointers in 3 different games this season. And usually if one isn’t hot the other one is, so Dexter Strickland and company take notice.

The good news is Prest along with benchwarmer Sam McBeath are the tallest members on the team. Both are native Australians, and both stand at 6’7”. That means if Tyler Zeller can put up a repeat of his performance against Appalachian State, the Tar Heels should cruise and hand Nicholls State their 8th loss on the season. Don’t feel too bad for the Colonels though. They’ll be going back home to South Louisiana and that special part of the country where there’s a drive-thru daiquiri shack on every corner. That’s right, leave it to Cajun ingenuity to figure out that it’s not an open container until the straw penetrates the lid. My flavor of choice was a Knockout Punch with an extra shot of Bacardi 151. Man, I wish we were playing this one in Thibodaux. My mouth is watering at the thoughts of alcohol-laced, slushy goodness. Oh wait never mind . . . scratch that. Nicholls State is almost unstoppable at Stopher Gym. They’ve enjoyed a 31-6 record on their home court over the past three seasons. So “Harvard on the Bayou,” Welcome to Chapel Hill! We may not have gumbo or jambalaya, but we do have biscuits! And if you’ll be good sports and let us score 100 points, you can pick some up from Bojangles on the way home. You’ll need something to soak up all those daiquiris.