NCAA Basketball Rumors: Northern Kentucky Is Leaving Atlantic Sun For Horizon League

Northern Kentucky University’s board of directors are expected to approve the Norse’s acceptance into the Horizon League on Monday according to several media reports on Saturday.

The Cincinnati Enquirer is reporting that the university’s Board of Regents will hold a special meeting at 9:30 a.m. Monday on the Highland Heights campus, which is located seven miles southeast of Cincinnati. NKU has scheduled a press conference to discuss the future of athletics after the meeting.

NKU is still in the transitional phase of the move to Division I and just completed their third year of the four year process according to Fox 19. While the Norse offer 15 varsity sports, basketball is by far the biggest.

NKU went 13-17 overall and 7-7 in the Atlantic Sun last year. The Norse participated in the conference tournament for the first time, falling to Lipscomb (76-73) in the quarterfinals. NKU will not be able to participate in a NCAA postseason tournament until the 2016-17 season.

This upcoming season could be a transition year in more ways than one for the Norse. The men’s basketball program will be under new leadership for the first time in 12 years as Dave Bezold was fired following last season. First-year head coach John Brannen, a former assistant at Alabama and VCU (among other schools), takes over the program. Brannen was the interim coach of the Crimson Tide after Anthony Grant was fired during the season — Alabama went 1-1 with Brannen as the head coach.

Bezold led the Norse to a 194-133 record overall but was just 33-54 in the past three years. NKU posted a 21-29 record against Atlantic Sun foes.

NKU loses two seniors in Jordan and Chad Jackson to graduation, as well as Atlantic Sun freshman of the year, Tayler Persons, who has decided to transfer, according to CBS Sports. Persons led the Norse with 13 points a game to go along with four rebounds and nearly four assists. Sophomore guard Daniel Camps has also decided to transfer and incoming freshman Hagen Tyler has been released from his National Letter of Intent.

Six-foot-six senior forward/center Jalen Billups and senior guard Tyler White, both of whom averaged double figures in scoring, will return. The Norse’s 2015 recruiting class currently stands at two as they have signed a pair of 6-foot-7 small forwards, Drew McDonald and Brannen Gillis. ESPN Recruiting Nation is reporting that NKU has offered undeclared three-star recruit Aric Holman a scholarship.

Adding NKU increases the Horizon League’s membership to 10 and drops the Atlantic Sun to a critical seven teams. Conferences are required to have at least seven teams to maintain the ability to have their champion receive an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

A-SUN HORIZON
FGCU Cleveland State
Jacksonville Detroit
Kennesaw State (Kennesaw, Ga.) Green Bay (Wisc.)
Lipscomb (Nashville, Tenn.) Illinois-Chicago
North Florida (Jacksonville) Milwaukee
Northern Kentucky (Highland Heights, Ky.) Oakland (Rochester, Minn.)
Stetson (DeLand) Valparaiso (Ind.)
USC Upstate (Spartanburg, S.C.) Wright State (Dayton, Ohio)
Youngstown State (Ohio)

[Table via the News-Press; photo via Northern Kentucky Athletics]