Northern Kentucky University basketball teams have high hopes

College basketball is just around the corner. Both Northern Kentucky basketball programs kick off their regular seasons on Monday, Nov. 7. The men’s program hosts Kent State at 7 p.m. at Truist Arena. The women’s team hosts Lipscomb at 7 p.m. on November 10 in their home opener.

Horizon League Pre-Season Poll:Northern Kentucky University men’s basketball selected first, women’s team fourth

Both teams held a press briefing on Thursday. Here are some of the biggest takeaways.

Expectations for NKU basketball in 2022-23

The men’s team finished 20-12 last season and 14-6 in the Horizon League. The Norse lost by a single point, 72-71, to Wright State in the league tournament title game, missing out on third place in the NCAA Tournament as a Division I program.

NKU was chosen to tie for first place with Purdue Fort Wayne to win this year’s title, but the Norwegians aren’t focusing on that, they’re just getting better.

“It’s the first time in four years that we’ve had a number of guys play meaningful minutes for us,” said head coach Darrin Horn. “The first year we inherited three great players and had the chance to win a championship. But it’s the first time we’ve come back to full of guys who played for us. We have a good idea of ​​what what we’re working with. They understand the expectations and we know what to expect from them. And it’s great to work with in pre-season.

The women’s team finished 21-8 last year and 14-6 in the league. The Norse have been chosen to finish fourth in the league this year. NKU beat Horizon League blueblood Green Bay last year, but also lost three times to Cleveland State, including in the league tournament, which head coach Camryn Whitaker said likely played in their ranking.

“The preseason polls are what they are,” Whitaker said. “They don’t mean much except to be a source of motivation. We’re competitive with the top of the league, so he’s got to work to get over the hump, beat those teams and get to Indianapolis and the Finals.

NKU fires four out of five starters from the women’s side and brings back several more letter winners.

The Norse graduated 6ft 3in Grayson Rose, but Whitaker said the team had more size and athleticism overall to make up for the loss.

“We’re a really good team from top to bottom,” said senior guard Ivy Turner, who averaged 13 points and four assists last year. “I’m really excited for this year and I think we can do something special.”

Last year’s biggest loss is this year’s biggest motivation for NKU’s men

The Horizon League Finals loss is a driving force for NKU’s men’s team this year. Head coach Darrin Horn said there was a streak of at least four minutes where the Norwegians were completely off their game, and they want to avoid those moments this year.

“They were a group that played extremely well down the stretch,” Horn said. “We got really close, finishing 15-3. It was a group that competed at a high level. It’s a huge motivator for returning guys. They have this taste in their mouths of how they wanted to work this summer and prepare for the season. It was a learning experience. There is a thin line between doing the job and not doing it. From a competitive point of view, they have been exceptional, but there are things about basketball that we can continue to improve and develop.

NKU senior Trevon Faulkner, returning for his fifth season with the Norse, is determined to learn from this game.

“We need to be more balanced,” he said. “As a leader, I have to speak up and help us get back to what we were working on. We panicked too much (in the final), so we have to be calmer and get the job done.

The Great Northern Kentucky Schedule for 2022-23

The men’s team has a tough non-conference schedule, starting with Mid-American Conference preseason favorite Kent State. NKU hosts the Cincinnati Bearcats on Nov. 16 and plays a vacation tournament on Florida’s Gulf Coast, among other challenges.

“Kent State is a very physical team,” Horn said. “We wanted to test ourselves. We want games like that. Our guys want to play games like that. Obviously, with the arrival of Cincinnati, they are tall, athletic. They will be a tough challenge. It added a lot more urgency to our pre-season preparations.

NKU plays in Washington State starting in the Pac-12 conference on Dec. 7. Horn wanted to schedule other power conference teams, but getting those games is more difficult because of the NET rankings, which the NCAA committee uses to pick tournament teams.

NKU and the rest of the Horizon League are Quadrant 4 teams, the lowest tier of the four quadrants.

“Planning has really changed from being about RPI before, but now it’s about NET,” said Horn. “The NET doesn’t give as high a value for a quality opponent as RPI does. Previously it was with the RPI you played against a team (like NKU) that could win more than 20 games, you get a boost to play them. {power-5 schools are told that if you play a Quad 4, play the worst not the best. We told them that in the spring and people told us they couldn’t play against us.

The women’s team will also face the UC Bearcats on December 21 at Truist Arena. NKU plays several Mid-American Conference schools as well as Atlantic 10 power Dayton.

Norse improve on and off the pitch

The men’s team has grown and strengthened during the offseason.

Marques Warrick, a native of Lexington, Ky., was a first-team selection after earning second-team playoff honors last year. He was NKU’s top scorer with 16.8 points per game last season. He led the team in 3-pointers with 76, completing 35.3% of his attempts. He averaged three rebounds and was third on the team in assists with 2.3 per game.

Trevon Faulkner and Sam Vinson earned second-team honors. Faulkner, the 2018 Kentucky Mr. Basketball at Mercer County High School, has 1,332 career points, currently 14e in the history of NKU, and is 15 years olde in career steals with 128.

Vinson, a sophomore, averaged 11.2 points per game and 4.3 rebounds last year, earning Horizon Freshman of the Year honors. Vinson was second on the team in assists, averaging 3.4 per game, and made 50 3-point shots with 35.2% accuracy. Vinson also led the Scandinavians in steals with 66.2.0 per game, setting a league record for steals by a freshman.

Warrick said he has gained at least 10 pounds since last season.

“It will help me on offense and defense. It will help me finish the contact,” he said. “Not forcing the issue, just playing basketball.”

Vinson, who led Highlands to the 2021 KHSAA Sweet 16 title, is focused on improving.

“I’ve gained about 12 pounds, so I’m just more physical offensively and defensively,” he said. “I’ve just learned more about the college game and been a more efficient player. Finding more of my spots, becoming more confident overall. I feel like I’m still a confident player, but in entering my second year, I’m ready to come back after.

Horn said a big key for his team is having strength coach Tyler Janota, who only works with his program.

“I tell our guys if you rely on the team with the smartest coach, you’re in trouble,” Horn joked. “But I’m counting on you to get better every day and get better. We are one of the few non-Power 5 teams that have a hired strength coach. Tyler did a great job with our guys.

Northern Kentucky Northern guard Sam Vinson (2) shoots for three points at Truist Arena in Highland Heights, Ky., Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022.

New players bring versatility to basketball NKU

The men’s team is excited about two of the most talented players they’ve had under Horn’s tenure.

Xavier Rhodes, a 6-foot-1 senior guard, is a fifth-year senior who played for Florida Southern, and Horn said he was the best true playmaker the Norse had in his tenure.

“He’s a fifth-year guy, all of our seniors are,” Horn said. “He brings a lot of speed to this position, which we haven’t had since I’ve been here. He can really make plays at both ends of the court. What is exciting is that he will continue to improve as he has already done in a short time.

Nordic players are happy to have it.

“He brings the speed,” Faulkner said. “He’s fast, confident. I am very excited to play with him. He goes into the paint. He makes plays for others, he is selfless, great fun to play. He adds a lot to our team. »

Imanuel Zorgvol, a 7-foot second center from Suriname who went to high school in Orlando, could be an impact player on the inside.

“He’s got a size there that we haven’t had here,” Horn said. “He has a long way to go in basketball, but a terrific competitive character. He works really hard and wants to be good.

The NKU women’s team has an impact transfer to Whitney Hay, a 6-foot guard who came here from Belmont in Division I. Hay trained with the team last year.

“She really helped us in training,” Whitaker said. “She will add points and play inside and out. Good passer, hard-working blue-collar worker.

Northern Kentucky Northern guard A'lahn Sumler (4) is guarded by guard Xavier Rhodes (11) at Truist Arena in Highland Heights, Ky., Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022.