"A Chance to Make a Nice Little Run": NKU Draws Texas Tech in NCAA Opener
Northern Kentucky is back in the NCAA Tournament and for the first time in its three years of post-season eligibility as a Division I program, the Norse won't face another team from Kentucky.
NKU (26-8) is the #14 seed in the West Region and will play #3-seed Texas Tech (26-6) in Tulsa, Okla. on Friday.
The game time has yet to be released.
The Norse won the Horizon League tournament last week to advance to the NCAA Tournament. In 2017, NKU made its tournament debut, losing in the opening round as a #15 seed to #2-seed Kentucky. In 2018, the Norse were invited to play in the NIT after winning the Horizon regular season title but falling in the conference tournament. NKU went on to lose to Louisville in the NIT's opening round.
A large crowd of fans joined the team on campus in Highland Heights to watch the tournament selection show as the pairings were revealed in a national broadcast on CBS.
Last week, when the team returned from winning the conference tournament in Detroit, another crowd of fans welcomed the Norse home.
Head Coach John Brannen, in his fourth season at the helm in Highland Heights, said last week that the team has a shot to win in the tournament.
"I've been in this profession for over twenty years and I can honestly say I've never had a group of young men that represent this community, the university, their families, or their region better than these guys do. When they put a Northern Kentucky jersey on it means something to 'em and they play like it," Brannen said. "I'll tell you what I told you two years ago when I said we were just getting started and one thing we don't do in this program is lie, we tell the truth. We are just getting started. We got a chance to make a nice little run."
Senior Drew McDonald, who became NKU's all-time leading scorer this season, also said the team has what it takes to win in the tournament this year.
"We don't let outside voices influence inside choices. We can let them predict what they want, we'll see where we fall on Selection Sunday," McDonald said during last week's celebration before the draw with Texas Tech was announced, "but we know what we have in that locker room, we know we're not done yet, we know if we play like we did on Tuesday, we know we have a run in us. We're not done yet. This team has a lot more. We're special. This team has something in us that feels like we're gonna keep playing for a while."
NKU President Ashish Vaidya also congratulated the team last week.
"What an outstanding finish, what an outstanding season, what a way to welcome a new president to NKU," Vaidya said. "I think you should know that what you did was not just a win for NKU basketball, it was a win for this university as a whole. It was a win for this entire region.
"Ever since we went to Division I, this was the question mark: what are we doing here? This is ample evidence of the fact that we're here, baby, and we're unstoppable."
For up-to-date information on schedules, watch parties and fan gatherings, visit NKUNorse.com/
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher
Photos by Brian Frey for RCN