A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Don Owen: Would NKU vs. scandal-plagued LSU in NCAA Tournament interest you? It could happen

Let’s begin by saying a number of things have to occur, but several bracketology sites have Northern Kentucky University potentially playing LSU — yes, the Tigers of suspended head coach Will Wade and his alleged FBI-wiretapped phone conversation — in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

NKU is listed as a 15 seed on some bracketology boards, while LSU is generously given a No. 2 seed. That’s assuming the NCAA decides against flexing its scrawny, weasel-like biceps and allows LSU to actually participate in the NCAA Tournament. If you haven’t heard about Wade and the FBI wiretapping, utilize your computer’s search engine. You’ll be amazed by what you read.

But back to basketball that is played on the court, not in a court of law.

NKU meets Oakland at 9:30 p.m. Monday in the semifinals of the Horizon League Tournament. NKU owns a 24-8 record. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)

NKU meets Oakland at 9:30 p.m. on Monday in the semifinals of “Motor City Madness,” also known as the Horizon League Tournament. The second-seeded Norse are 24-8 overall and tied Wright State for the Horizon League’s regular-season title. You can watch the game live on ESPNU.

Wright State (20-12) plays Green Bay (17-15) at 7 p.m. Monday in the other semifinal. The Raiders are the No. 1 seed, while Green Bay is No. 4.

Both semifinals are being held in Detroit, which is about 30 miles from Oakland’s campus. That should translate into a lot of Oakland fans and a big boost for the local team. The third-seeded Golden Grizzlies are just 16-16 overall but own a five-game winning streak going into Monday’s contest. If either Oakland or Green Bay captures the Horizon League’s automatic berth, they will no doubt be 16 seeds.

NKU and Wright State are both in position to be 15 seeds, possibly even a 14 seed if everything happened perfectly in the other conference tournaments around the nation. You can bet the Horizon League’s upper brass is hoping those two squads are in Tuesday’s 7 p.m. championship game for a number of reasons. But those same administrators might also like the attendance numbers nearby Oakland might provide inside Little Caesars Arena.

Oakland is led by Xavier Hill-Mais, an inside powerhouse who averages 18.5 points per game. Shooting guard Jaevin Cumberland averages 16.8 points per game for the Golden Grizzlies.

Brad Brechting, a 6-foot-11 mountain in the paint, averages 9.6 points per contest, but in league play that number increased to 13.4 ppg. NKU and Oakland split two games this season, with each team winning at home.

Drew McDonald leads NKU in scoring (19.3 ppg) and rebounding (9.5 rpg). The senior forward is NKU’s all-time leading scorer (2,030 points) and rebounder (1,056 boards). He is one of five active players in Division I basketball with at least 2,000 career points and 1,000 career boards.

McDonald is also tied for seventh among active players with 47 career double-doubles.

NKU junior guard Tyler Sharpe averages 14.4 points per game. Sharpe’s 82 made 3-pointers this season rank 72nd nationally. In the Horizon League Tournament opener against Detroit Mercy last week, Sharpe buried a career-best six 3-pointers and scored 25 points.

Sophomore guard Jalen Tate averages 13.9 points for the Norse. Tate scored a career-high 30 points against Green Bay in the regular-season finale and earned Horizon League Player of the Week for his performance. Against Detroit Mercy, he dished out a career-high 10 assists.

So, that brings us to Monday night and the semifinals. My predictions? I hope they’re better than last year, when Cleveland State wrecked my bracket by upsetting top-seeded NKU in the quarterfinals.

Wright State 81, Green Bay 67
NKU 61, Oakland 60

(I’ll let you know Tuesday if NKU and Wright State advance this far)

Drew McDonald (34) leads NKU in scoring (19.3 ppg) and rebounding (9.5 rpg) going into Monday night. McDonald is pictured battling Oakland’s Brad Brechting (right) earlier this season. (Photo by Jeff McCurry)

Related Posts

One Comment

  1. Roger James says:

    Happy as a duck in warm water for NKU in Horizon Tournament. To win on 39 percent shooting is a tribute to coaching, defense, and blnd freaking luck

Leave a Comment