March Madness is a time when everyone rallies behind their team and dreams of advancing to the late rounds of the tournament. The Northern Kentucky Norse are a 15 seed and are likely not headed past the first round. They did however draw an in-state team in this first round that should generate some interest: The Kentucky Wildcats. Some fans are conflicted as they are a fan of both teams, but here is why every Norse fan should be happy that this match-up is happening.
1. Generate Local Interest in The Program
NKU is in its first year of eligibility to make the NCAA Tournament and they did that. How will that success carry over? They need to draw as much interest in the program to sell tickets, get boosters and get recruits. There is no other match-up in the first round that could have generated more interest than playing Kentucky.
How did this generate interest? Northern Kentucky is located just south of Cincinnati, Ohio. The majority of people in the city dislike the University of Kentucky, even though there is no major rivalry between the Wildcats and teams in the area. By playing Kentucky, the Norse are drawing fans that wouldn’t typically root for NKU, making the game of more general interest.
The key is to get some of these fans to stay on the bandwagon for years to come. Whether they buy one ticket or end up being the biggest NKU fans in the world, it will help the program.
2. Players Get Their Shot at the Super Bowl
I can guarantee that none of these players will end up playing in an actual Super Bowl, but for the Norse this game will likely be the biggest they ever play in.
With five players from the state of Kentucky, and many more from surrounding areas, NKU has a lot of local talent. These athletes were overlooked by the college basketball powerhouses, but the one that stings the most is Kentucky.
3. More People Will Watch Their Game
Kentucky has some of the most watched games in college basketball this season, which won’t change in the tournament. Their games against North Carolina and Kansas were the second and third most watched games in the regular season for college basketball.
Getting in the NCAA Tournament will draw a lot of eyes on a program, but if the Norse had drawn almost any other team the ratings would go down drastically. At the end of the day more eyes on the program is a good thing. The team and school will be more marketable and as mentioned before, should be able to recruit more.
4. They Get to Play in Indianapolis
While NKU is still a relatively new Division I college basketball program, there are some die-hard fans and students that would love to watch their first tournament game in history. It is a monumental game that will lead to good things in the future and can’t be missed for the loyal fans.
The good news is that, because they are playing Kentucky, they get to play in Indianapolis. This is a manageable drive of, at most two hours from NKU’s campus. Fans have their chance to support their team, which isn’t something that comes very often. Last season Kentucky had to play their first and second round games in Des Moines, Iowa. The Cincinnati Bearcats, who are just across the river from NKU, play their first round game in Sacramento on Friday. Norse fans should consider themselves lucky to have an opportunity to go to this once in a lifetime game.
5. Free Steak
Jeff Ruby is a famous restaurant owner from the Cincinnati area. He has offered free steak to all students at NKU if the Norse can upset the Wildcats. That is free steak for 15,000 students. His steaks aren’t cheap, so this will cost him a lot of money. If a chance at free steak for poor college students doesn’t make you think that this match-up is the best thing that could’ve happened, nothing will.