Listen: NKU Basketball's Potential Impact on the Region
Listen to NKY Chamber president Trey Grayson discuss the impact of NKU basketball success on the NKY region with RCN's Michael Monks
The Northern Kentucky Norse will be the same team that they have been all season: committed, competitive, and composed. On Wednesday afternoon, the Horizon League champions invited local media to talk with them and watch practice before the team headed to Indianapolis on Thursday afternoon.
"We knew it was going to be a really good team, regardless, but I can't look at it as anything other than another opponent," said Carson Williams, a freshman from Owenton. "I'll go up against whoever I'm matched up against."
That is confident talk for a freshman on a team making its debut in the NCAA Tournament in the first year it is eligible. The Norse, having completed the long 4-year transition to NCAA Division I status, have won six straight games, including three in Detroit that made them champions of the Horizon League and owners of the conference's automatic bid to the Big Dance.
On Sunday, when the bracket was released, NKU was paired as a #15 seed, against #2 seed Kentucky, the standard-bearer for all things basketball in the Commonwealth, and arguably the nation. The odds are daunting, but NKU vows to be ready.
"We don't get a chance to reset our goals very often, but we got a chance to reset our goal and focus on Kentucky," said sophomore Drew McDonald, a graduate of Newport Central Catholic, on the long week and a half between winning the league tournament and taking the floor in Indianapolis on Friday night agaisnt Kentucky.
Head Coach John Brannen, also a New Cath grad, understands the stakes and the hype around Kentucky. He arrived in Highland Heights last season after a stint as assistant coach at Alabama where the Crimson Tide regularly tangled with the Wildcats in the SEC. "There's no such thing as a neutral site game when you play Kentucky," Brannen said. "(The NKU guys) understand the environment they're walking into."
"The thing that will be an adjustment for our guys will be the speed of the game once the game starts," Brannen said. He added that UK is a tough match-up, but, "I like to think we're a tough match-up at times, too."