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NKU Athletics

Men’s basketball schedule preview

A road trip into Big Ten country and a return trip to Morgantown, West Virginia, highlight the 2016-2017 NKU men’s basketball schedule.

In its second season under head coach John Brannen, the Norse will open the regular season at home against Earlham Nov. 11 at BB&T Arena.

Two days later, NKU will travel to the newly-renovated State Farm Center in Champaign, Illinois to take on Big Ten opponent Illinois. The Illini finished last season 15-19.

The Norse’s final non-league game will be Dec. 23, when they travel for the second straight year to Morgantown, West Virginia to take on Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers. Last season, WVU beat NKU 107-61. Tyler White led the way for NKU with 17 points while Lavone Holland II added 11.

In addition to Earlham, other home non-league games include North Carolina Central, Eastern Illinois, Brescia and Eastern Washington, a school best known for its red football field.

NKU will travel to Oxford, Ohio Nov. 18-20 for the Tarkett Sports Classic. The Norse will play three games in three days, starting with Austin Peay on Nov. 18. They will follow with Delaware on Nov. 19 before finishing with the host Redhawks on Nov. 20.

Morehead State will be another road test for the Norse. NKU travels to Morehead Nov. 30 for a 7 p.m. tip-off.

Horizon League play will begin Dec. 29 with a trip to Detroit, followed by a New Year’s Eve contest in Rochester, Michigan against Oakland. NKU swept both road games against Detroit and Oakland last season, while losing to both teams at BB&T Arena.

The home Horizon League season starts Jan. 5 as NKU hosts Youngstown State. The Norse will remain home for a Jan. 7 showdown with Cleveland State. The Norse were predicted to finish ahead of both schools in the preseason Horizon League poll. Cleveland State swept the Norse last season while NKU split with YSU.

NKU and the rest of the Horizon League will play the final league tournament in the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit Mar. 3-7. The historic arena is being retired after this season, and the league will move into the new Little Caesars Arena in Detroit next season.

Brannen and his young team will have their work cut out for them with a challenging preseason schedule, the coach said.

“We are excited and hard at work preparing for this upcoming season,” Brannen said in a release. “With eight first-time Division I players, our goal was to put together a schedule that would challenge us and prepare us for the rigors of Horizon League play. Going on the road to WVU, Illinois, Miami (OH) and Morehead State will provide that.”

Must-see games

Illinois

Nov. 13, 6 p.m., State Farm Center, Champaign, Illinois

Northern Kentucky will take a trip to Illinois and will get to experience the newly-renovated State Farm Center. It was a tough season for the Illini last season, finishing 15-19 overall and 5-13 in Big Ten play. Despite that, Illinois did manage to win its first two games in the Big Ten tournament over Minnesota at 20th-ranked Iowa before being pounded by 13th-ranked Purdue 89-58 in the Big Ten quarterfinals. Senior guard Malcolm Hill was named to the preseason all-Big Ten team. He averaged 18.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game for the Illini a season ago. (FightingIllini.com)

West Virginia

Nov. 13, 6 p.m., WVU Coliseum, Morgantown, West Virginia

For the second straight season, NKU will travel to West Virginia to take on Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers. WVU is ranked 20 in the Associated Press preseason top 25. The Mountaineers were picked to finish second in the Big 12 in its preseason poll, finishing behind only unanimous top pick Kansas. West Virginia returns three of its top five scorers from a year ago. In last season’s 46-point win over the Norse, Jevon Carter led the way with 24 points. Carter, a junior guard, returns for the Mountaineers, along with junior Daxter Miles Jr., who had 19 points for WVU against NKU last year. (WVUSports.com)

Valparaiso

Jan. 29, 2:30 p.m., Athletics-Recreation Center (The ARC), Valparaiso, Indiana

Feb. 26, 1 p.m., BB&T Arena, Highland Heights, Kentucky

Valparaiso was tabbed as preseason favorites in the Horizon League preseason poll. In addition, Alec Peters was named preseason Horizon League player of the year. He and Shane Hammink were each chosen to the league’s preseason first-team. Peters averaged 18.4 points and 8.5 rebounds per game last year, while Hammink averaged 8.9 points per game. Valparaiso advanced to the National Invitational Tournament championship game last season. After handling the Norse at BB&T 71-46 last season, Valpo defeated NKU 64-52 at Valpo. (ValpoAthletics.com)

Wright State

Feb. 4, 7 p.m., Ervin J. Nutter Center, Dayton, Ohio

Feb. 21, 7 p.m. BB&T Arena, Highland Heights, Kentucky

Wright State and Northern Kentucky renew its geographic rivalry with two late-season Horizon League contests. The Raiders were picked fifth in the Horizon League preseason poll, two places ahead of Northern Kentucky. Junior Mark Alstork was selected to the Horizon League preseason second team. He averaged 12.4 points and 4.7 rebounds last season for the Raiders. Wright State has a new coach this season, with former South Dakota State head coach Scott Nagy taking over. The Raiders swept both meetings from the Norse last season. After beating NKU 60-46 at BB&T Arena, WSU edged the Norse 67-64 at the Nutter Center. (WSURaiders.com)

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