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Division I Basketball in Kentucky, Top to Bottom, Has Never Been Stronger


College basketball in the state of Kentucky has never been stronger. A year ago, Murray State took the nation by storm as it was ranked as high as No. 7 nationally in the Coaches’ Poll and a 31-2 overall record. Western Kentucky also reached the NCAA Tournament and picked up a win in their play-in game over Sean Woods’ Mississippi Valley State squad for the right to face our beloved Kentucky Wildcats. Oh yeah, then there is Louisville, who made a Final Four run only to fall to their big brother down the road in an epic battle of the Commonwealth in New Orleans. And, of course, Kentucky won the National Championship.

A couple years ago, current Denver Nuggets’ star Kenneth Faried led Morehead State to an NCAA Tournament win over Louisville. The Eagles are a bit down now, but Murray State is having another strong season (18-5, 9-2 OVC) and Eastern Kentucky has emerged as an additional in-state contender to win the OVC title and earn an NCAA Tournament berth. The Colonels are 19-6 (8-3 OVC) and have played in competitive games on the road vs. Illinois and West Virginia.  If Eastern Kentucky can make the big dance, they’d become the sixth team from the state to make the NCAA Tournament since the 2011 season.

One more team from the state worth noting, but will not be playing in the NCAA Tournament this season, is Northern Kentucky. The Norse are in their first-ever season of Division I basketball after many years of being a traditional power in Division II. Despite their success in the Atlantic Sun this season, they won’t be given the chance to compete for a conference championship. NKU is serving the first year of a four-year transition period for becoming a Division I member and are not eligible for postseason play until their fifth Division I season.

The season started out pretty rocky for NKU, losing their first six games and taking a 70-43 beating from Ohio State in Columbus. In their sixth game of the season, however, the Norse gained confidence in a close, six-point loss at Texas Tech. Since then, the Norse are 8-5 and playing very competitively for a first-year Division I program. NKU sits in the middle of the pack in the Atlantic Sun with a 6-6 league record in their first Division I season. They’ve earned a marquee victory against Mercer (16-9, 9-3 A-Sun), the team picked by many to win the conference, and just recently put together a four-game win streak.



NKU plays in the beautiful, new 9.400-seat Bank of Kentucky Center (pictured above), just minutes from downtown Cincinnati. With its location, facilities, and ability to instantly compete in their first season in Division I, look for the Norse to develop into a strong Division I program that could one day be regularly dancing with Kentucky and Louisville in the NCAA Tournament.

Article written by John Wilmhoff

Former beer vendor, college mascot and ESPN editor. This spring, you can also find me blogging about the Reds on Follow me on Twitter: @JohnWilmhoff

17 Comments for Division I Basketball in Kentucky, Top to Bottom, Has Never Been Stronger

  1. UK Homer
    9:41 pm February 10, 2013 Permalink

    Can’t wait to see NKU start playing UC, XU, EKU, WKU, UL, and yes even UK. Would love to see them be at the level of UC and XU basketball-wise and be a top 25 threat most years.

  2. don of dons
    9:42 pm February 10, 2013 Permalink


  3. UK
    9:59 pm February 10, 2013 Permalink

    Mercer is actually a pretty good team. I used to go there and watch them.

  4. UK#1
    10:12 pm February 10, 2013 Permalink

    Not a bad looking place to play bb. Up and coming. Good luck to them.

  5. [email protected]
    10:20 pm February 10, 2013 Permalink

    Things are getting pretty negative up in St Paul for Tubby. The Gophers are in a bit of a tail spin again, and in his 6th year at Minnesota is yet to win an NCAA tourney game.

  6. Jeremy
    10:21 pm February 10, 2013 Permalink

    Finally! Some Norse love! I’m a season ticket holder and alum. They’ve been playing really well and I can’t wait for the probationary period to be up so we can compete each March.

  7. Tim
    10:31 pm February 10, 2013 Permalink

    Love the NKU shout out. I’m a junior at NKU. loved watching them kill teams in D2, but the success they are having in the Atlantic Sun is just awesome… i don’t anyone saw this coming. Give credit to the coaching staff and the commitment by the seniors/upperclassmen. They can’t even compete in conference tournament, but are still playing hard and building the program! Go Norse. So awesome when Kentucky, Murray State, EKU, WKU, (even UL) are successful…. easy to forget how spoiled we are with all the great basketball around here. #GoCats

  8. KYWildcat04
    10:34 pm February 10, 2013 Permalink

    Thanks for talking about NKU, KSR!

  9. KY bball
    1:05 am February 11, 2013 Permalink

    University of the Cumberlands was ranked first nationally in NAIA earlier this year too.

  10. LWCstudent
    1:49 am February 11, 2013 Permalink

    Speaking of NAIA Lindsey Wilson is #3

  11. jim tom
    7:18 am February 11, 2013 Permalink

    isn’t this nku’s 2d year in d1?

  12. NKU Grad
    9:17 am February 11, 2013 Permalink

    Thanks for giving NKU a little love. They are having a great first year as a D-1 team in their conference. The Bank of Kentucky Center is a great place to watch some pretty fun basketball. Tickets are only $7 a game. This team lives and dies by the three, so they are pretty fun to watch for cheap. Come on out!

  13. Bellarmine University
    10:58 am February 11, 2013 Permalink

    NKU moved up to D1 because they got tired of being embarrassed by Bellarmine University.

  14. Bellarmine Alum
    11:39 am February 11, 2013 Permalink

    NKU couldn’t beat Bellarmine any longer so they had to move along…. Bellarmine will be next to move up to D-1

  15. Roddy
    12:27 pm February 11, 2013 Permalink

    If you compare games against Auburn. Murray State must be much better than UK. LOL Actually Murray State beat Auburn by only 20, but Murray did play their second string most of the 2nd half after being up 30+.

  16. Zac
    1:33 pm February 11, 2013 Permalink

    #13 and #14 – Bellarmine may have gotten the best of NKU numerous times but you still can’t deny the fact that they were a very, very good D2 team year in and year out. To see them have success is a testament to their team and how good the program is. The same would apply to Bellarmine. They could compete just as well as NKU is currently doing. No need to de-mean any of these programs.

  17. STEVE!
    1:45 pm February 11, 2013 Permalink

    One of UK’s all-time favorites – Todd Svoboda – transferred from NKU.