What to know about Northern Kentucky, Houston Cougars basketball’s first-round opponent

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Darron Cummings/AP/Shutterstock (13797164h) Northern Kentucky celebrates after defeating Cleveland State in an NCAA college basketball game for the Horizon League men’s tournament championship, in Indianapolis Horizon N Kentucky Cleveland St Basketball, Indianapolis, United States – 07 Mar 2023

What to know about Northern Kentucky, Houston Cougars basketball’s first-round opponent

The Houston Cougars basketball team is the one-seed in the Midwest Region of the NCAA Tournament, and it will play against 16-seed Northern Kentucky in the first round on Thursday.

While Houston fans know a lot about the Cougars, they do not know much about Northern Kentucky. Here is a quick breakdown of the program and school.

Fun facts about Northern Kentucky

Northern Kentucky is located in Highland Heights, Kentucky, a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio. It is located just 7.3 miles south of downtown Cincinnati.

The mascot of Northern Kentucky is the Norse, a Medieval Scandinavian group that spoke Germanic languages. Northern Kentucky’s colors are gold, white and black.

Northern Kentucky’s origins date back to 1946 when a small group of students and professors engaged in classes through the University of Kentucky’s educational extension services at the Trailways Bus Station in Covington, Kentucky.

The university was officially founded in 1968 as Northern Kentucky State College. It changed its name to Northern Kentucky University in 1976. Its athletics department initially competed as an NCAA Division II program beginning in 1971. It transitioned to an NCAA Division I school in 2012.

About the men’s basketball team

The Norse have competed in men’s basketball for 51 years. Northern Kentucky’s first-ever season was in 1971-72 under head coach Martin “Mote” Hils. He played a pivotal role in launching the school’s athletics department. The school was not affiliated with a conference for its first 14 years of existence.

Northern Kentucky has had six head coaches all-time lead the men’s basketball program, and it has been a part of three conferences — Great Lakes Valley Conference (Division II), Atlantic Sun Conference, and Horizon League Conference.

Since joining the Horizon League in 2015-16, the Norse have won four conference tournament championships. That includes this season when they defeated Cleveland State, 63-61, in the Horizon League championship.

Thursday’s game between the Cougars and the Norse will be the first-ever meeting between the two programs. Northern Kentucky has never won a game in the NCAA Tournament. The Norse have gone 79-44 under current head coach Darrin Horn. This is his fourth year leading Northern Kentucky.

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