What is the biggest key for the NKU men’s basketball team to have success this season?
MS: NKU’s success this season will be determined by how quickly the freshmen can make an impact in the lineup. NKU has 10 freshmen and sophomores, and they’ll need quite a few of them to be important contributors to the team in order for them to have a winning season. The Horizon League is a brutally-tough mid-major conference. There won’t be any nights where the team will be able to phone it in. Often times with young players, it’s the consistency of performance that wavers. They have a lot of young talent that will do some impressive things this season, but can they be impressive night after night?
CD: The biggest key to success will be if the Norse can execute the ‘94 feet both ways’ philosophy Coach Brannen is talking about. The learning curve of these young players will make it tough for the Norse to run a set offense this season. It will be all about playing good defense and then immediately getting out in transition and getting those easy buckets and putting pressure on the opposition. It will be hard to do it night after night, but if they can do it they will surprise a lot of people.
What is the biggest key for the NKU women’s basketball team to have success this season?
CD: For the Norse women to succeed this season, they will have to find a way to replace the scoring of the Roush sisters. Christine Roush averaged 15.9 ppg game last season and scored 520 points, while the second leading scorer, Kasey Uetrecht scored 379 points. Courtney Roush added 9.0 ppg but could take over games last season. As a result, the Norse ranked third in offense last season. Uetrecht along with Rebecca Lyttle, Molly Glick and others will need to fill the shoes left behind by those two players. If the Norse can use the speed Camryn Whitaker wants to, the team should be a force in the Horizon League.
MS: For the women to have success this season, they must be stronger at the end of games. This seems like an obvious statement, as any team that wants to be successful needs to play well at the end of games. However, this team seemed cursed at times last year in the final five minutes of games. As I said in the preview, NKU lost 14 games last year. Eight of those losses were by five points or less, and seven were by three points or less. They lost in double overtime in the Horizon League semifinals to Green Bay and at the end of the game to USC Upstate in the WBI to end the season. First-year head coach Camryn Whitaker has pushed her team to be stronger in the final seconds of a game. We’ll see if that adds up to narrow victories instead of narrow defeats this season.
What is the best-case scenario for how the men’s season plays out?
MS: After picking up an easy season-opening victory over Earlham, the Norse hit the road to take on Illinois. To the surprise of many around the country, NKU goes into the State Farm Center and upsets the Illini to improve to 2-0. They go 9-4 during the 13 non-league games. Looking to put a tough loss against West Virginia behind them, they open Horizon League play by sweeping the Michigan trip, beating both Detroit and Oakland. Even with a young team, NKU manages to go 10-8 in the Horizon League for a 19-13 overall record. The Norse head to Detroit as the five-seed in the conference tournament. After winning its first Horizon League tournament game, the Norse fall to Valparaiso in the semifinals. Their record is good enough to earn them a trip to a postseason tournament.
CD: The Norse will beat Earlham, but will then travel to Illinois and lose a relatively close game. The Norse will start 8-5 in the non conference including a loss to Bob Huggins West Virginia team. The Norse will then go 9-9 in Horizon League play, with a pair of upsets against Green Bay and Oakland with an overall record of 17-14. The Norse make it to the semifinals as a six seed but lose there and miss the NCAA tournament.
What is the best-case scenario for how the women’s season plays out?
CD: The Norse offense proves it is perfectly made for Camryn Whitaker’s system and blow away the non conference schedule, going an amazing 11-1 in the first 12 games. That includes a win on the road at Indiana with the only loss coming at Southern Mississippi as a result of tired legs. The Norse will open Horizon League play with a loss to Green Bay, but will then win their next four in a row. The Norse lose both games to Green Bay in the regular season, but finish with a 15-3 record in conference to earn the two seed in the Horizon League tournament. The Norse battle to the final game, and finally beat the Phoenix in the Horizon League championship and earn the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Norse will then lose in the first round of the tournament.
MS: The high-paced attack of the NKU women’s basketball team overwhelms its non-conference schedule. The Norse pick up a road win at Ohio before narrowly falling at Indiana. They head to Las Vegas and win two of the three games there. In 12 non-league games, NKU goes 10-2. After a narrow loss at Green Bay to open league play, the Norse get hot, winning the next four including a sweep of a three-game homestand. NKU finishes 14-4 in 18 Horizon League games, earning the 2-seed in the conference tournament in Detroit. This year, without the benefit of home court advantage, Green Bay is unable to defeat the Norse in the Horizon League tournament. NKU beats Green Bay in the final in overtime, earning the program’s first NCAA Division I tournament berth.