Zeller parents challenged in ACC/Big Ten

Tyler and Cody Zeller have long been known for their ability to run the floor.

Wednesday night, their parents will be tested on how quickly they can navigate I-40.

As timing would have it, freshman Cody’s Indiana Hoosiers will face NC State in Raleigh, N.C. at 7:15 p.m. on Wednesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. About 2 hours, 15 minutes later, senior Tyler’s fifth-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels will tip off against seventh-ranked Wisconsin in Chapel Hill, N.C.

After an 11-hour drive from Washington, Ind., Tuesday, Lorri and Steve Zeller are determined to see both sons in both games, even though they are being played about 23 miles (and roughly a 30-minute drive) away from each other.

“No, we don’t know any good back roads -- we’re just hoping to plug in the GPS, click ‘fastest route,’ and go,’’ Lorri said in a telephone interview, laughing.

Things might have been a bit easier, driving-wise, had the scheduling gurus opted to pit the 7-foot brothers against each other, although Lorri was glad they didn’t.

“When we found out about this week, and how close they’d be playing each other, we were excited, because it meant we’d be able to see both of them -- although it would have been nice if one was playing Tuesday and the other Wednesday,” she said.

As it is, the Zellers are hoping for a quick early game -- with enough of a winning margin so they can slip out of Raleigh’s RBC Center early. Depending on traffic (and parking availability), they figure they might not make it to the Smith Center in Chapel Hill by tipoff, but they hope it won't be too long after.

Tyler grinned recently at the notion, curious about how close his parents planned to cut it.

“It will be interesting to see if they leave his [Cody’s] game early, or show up for my game late,’’ he quipped, starting to laugh. “... They’ll probably stay at his game, they like him more. I’ve accepted that over my years.”

Actually, in order not to play favorites (and to not lose precious traveling time in order to change), the Zellers will be wearing specially-made shirts for the occasion: one half printed with North Carolina’s logo, the other half with Indiana’s.

They’re somewhat similar in design to the tops they wore in Maui during Tyler’s freshman season -- when he would have played against his older brother Luke (a starter for Notre Dame at the time), had he not been injured.

“We’re basketball junkies, so watching all of our sons has been a lot of fun,’’ Lorri said. “... [Wednesday] will be a challenge, but it’s a good challenge to have.”

Robbi Pickeral can be reached at bylinerp@gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter at @bylinerp.