HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – A season-opening trip to the west coast, a game against powerful Ohio State and a road encounter with two-time national champion San Francisco highlight Northern Kentucky University’s 2012-13 men’s basketball schedule as it tips off its inaugural year of NCAA Division I play.
In addition, NKU visits Lubbock, Texas, on December 4 to take on Texas Tech of the Big 12 Conference. That will mark the Norse’s first-ever trip to the state of Texas.
The Norse begin the season by traveling to California to participate in the four-game National Urea Cycle Disorders Foundation Challenge at the University of San Diego. NKU meets host San Diego (13-18 last season) on Nov. 14, followed by games against Tulsa (Nov. 15), Siena (Nov. 17) and CalState Northridge (Nov. 18).
“The tournament in San Diego will be a big-time test because we have to play four games in five days, and the teams involved are going to be very good,” NKU head coach Dave Bezold said. “It’s a challenging way to begin our first season as a Division I program, but we should learn a great deal about our team during that tournament.”
Tulsa, a member of Conference USA, posted a 17-14 record last season. The Golden Hurricane arecoached by former NBA standout and Kansas All-American Danny Manning.
Siena, which competes in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, finished 14-17 last season. The Saints feature post player O.D. Anosike, who led the nation in rebounds per game (12.5) last season.
NKU concludes the trip by meeting Cal State Northridge, which posted a 7-21 record last season. The Matadors are members of the Big West Conference.
It will mark NKU’s first trip to the west coast since the 1995-96 season, when the Norse played Cal State Bakersfield and Cal State-Los Angeles. NKU also visited Hawaii in 1990 for three games, and in 1988 the Norse played in a three-game tournament at Chico State.
NKU has not met a Division I opponent in a regular-season game since Dec. 10, 2005, when the Norse traveled to Provo, Utah, and dropped a 65-46 decision at Brigham Young.
On Dec. 1, NKU travels to Columbus, Ohio, to battle Big Ten powerhouse Ohio State in Value City Arena. It will mark the first regular-season meeting between the two programs. The Norse and Buckeyes played in an exhibition game in 2004, with Ohio State pulling out a 77-67 victory in Columbus, Ohio.
A year ago, Ohio State posted a 31-8 record and advanced to the NCAA Final Four.
“Ohio State played in the Final Four last season, and they should be a terrific team once again,” Bezold said. “Ohio State is loaded with talent, and Thad Matta is an outstanding coach.”
A week later, NKU hits the road to meet Texas Tech. The Red Raiders posted an 8-23 record last season, including a 1-17 mark in Big 12 play. Texas Tech welcomes back leading scorer and rebounder Jordan Tolbert, who averaged 11.5 points and 5.7 rebounds.
NKU closes out its non-conference December schedule with road games at Hampton (Dec. 20) and Navy (Dec. 22). Hampton posted a 12-21 record last season, while Navy finished 3-26.
NKU is making it debut this year as a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference. The Norse begin Atlantic Sun Conference play by traveling to Florida to meet Jacksonville on Dec. 31. NKU concludes that road trip Jan. 2 by playing at North Florida.
A-Sun foe South Carolina Upstate visits The Bank of Kentucky Center on Jan. 5 for NKU’s 2012-13 home opener. The Norse also play host to conference rivals East Tennessee State (Jan. 7) and Lipscomb (Jan. 11) as a part of that three-game homestand in The Bank of Kentucky Center.
NKU closes out the regular season with another trip to the west coast to face two-time NCAA Division I national champion San Francisco on March 14. The Dons won back-to-back national championships in 1955 and ’56 with future NBA Hall of Fame center Bill Russell patrolling the inside.
The Dons posted a 20-14 record last season and earned a berth in the College Basketball Invitational. San Francisco was rated the 29th greatest college basketball program of all-time by Street & Smith's magazine, 49th by NBC Sports, and 75th all-time by the ESPN/Sagarin all-time college basketball rankings.
“Before UCLA began dominating the west coast in college basketball during the 1960s and ‘70s, San Francisco was the best team in the country,” Bezold said. “They won two straight national titles, and their program is on the rise as they won 20 games last season.”
NKU, which posted a 23-7 record last season and advanced to the NCAA Division IITournament, welcomes back two starters in 2012-13. Senior point guard Ethan Faulkner (10.0 points, 4.3 assists per game), senior wing Eshaunte Jones (10.7 points per game) and senior forward Stretch Watson (6.3 points per game) all return this season.
Junior guard Chad Jackson (9.4 points per game) and sophomore post player Jalen Billups, who shot 65.1 from field last season, are also back in 2012-13.