Conference: Horizon League
Coach: John Brannen
Record: 24-10 (12-6 T-2)
Ratings and Rankings:
– Kenpom: 148
– RPI: 91
– AP/USA Today: N/A
Seeding: The Norse won 24 games and holds an RPI inside the top-100. But with only a singular win against that top-100, and the fact that Northern Kentucky had a highly-favorable journey through the Horizon League Tournament, expect the committee to slot NKU as a No. 15 seed.
Names you need to know: Drew McDonald emerged as a first-team all-Horizon League selection as a sophomore, averaging 16.5 points — shooting just under 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three — 7.6 boards and 1.8 assists per game. Lavone Holland is a junior guard who can stuff the stat sheet, like he did with a 20-point, six-rebound, four-assist and two-steal effort in the Horizon League Tournament championship win over Milwaukee. Cole Murray, like McDonald, is another sharpshooting wing.
Stats you need to know: One: In the program’s first postseason appearance, Northern Kentucky is going to the NCAA Tournament. The university moved up from Division II in 2012.
Big wins, bad losses: The Norse ended the regular season with an 82-78 win at home against Valparaiso. While Northern Kentucky won seven of eight heading into the Horizon League Tournament, its lone loss in that span was a bad one: allowing Youngstown State to come from behind to pick up an 81-77 win. In terms of worst beating, then-No. 11 West Virginia forced 28 Northern Kentucky turnovers in a 31-point defeat.
How’d they get here?: This was the first year Northern Kentucky was eligible for the postseason, as the NCAA requires a four-year transitional period when an institution moves up from Division II to Division I. In their first postseason appearance, the Norse benefited from a host of upsets in the quarterfinals. No. 1 Oakland lost at the buzzer to Youngstown State, No. 2 Valparaiso and its league player of the year Alec Peters, lost, 43-41, to 23-loss Milwaukee. No. 6 seed UIC upset No. 3 Green Bay. With No. 10 Milwaukee reaching the tournament final, the highest seed Northern Kentucky had to beat was No. 5 seed Wright State.
Outlook: This should be a good experience for a team, and a university, that has only been a Division I member since 2012. The Norse were rolling before the start of their first postseason appearance, but you could argue that it was extended by an improbable path where they played a lower seed each round they advanced. That won’t be the case in Northern Kentucky’s next game.
How do I know you?: As a newcomer in 2012, you likely don’t.