HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – Kentucky basketball fans, get ready and pick a side, if you can.
Northern Kentuckians who typically pledge their allegiance to the UK Wildcats may find themselves torn this week. That’s because the Cinderella Northern Kentucky Norse are playing the powerhouse Big Blue in the NCAA Tournament.
"I know I will be wearing blue and white and gold and black. I don't know what else to do!" Nancy Schulte, a life-long UK fan and NKU grad, said about mixing and matching the two schools’ colors.
"Shocking. Totally shocking. I can't imagine how this whole area is going to be."
"There is no doubt about my allegiance,” said Ken Smith, who said he followed the NKU team to the Horizon League Tournament in Detroit last week.
“I am a UK fan, but not come next week."
Schulte and Smith were among hundreds of NKU students and supporters who crowded into a campus hall Sunday to watch the NCAA Selection Show on TV with the team.
Many were anxious with their eyes glued to the TV even though NKU knew last week that it was going to the NCAA Tournament for the first time. So when the announcers called the school’s name right after Kentucky’s, it sent the large room into a frenzy.
The players literally jumped out of their seats, and so did the fans.
"My heart was racing,” said Sam Duda, a student. “I was like, ‘Oh my god, who are we going to play, who are we going to play, and then it was UK and I was like, ‘Yesssss!’"
"I am feeling excited," said 9-year-old Leah Schmitt. "It was cool because I saw everybody like on the team."
And to make it even better, NKU and UK will play just a short drive away in Indianapolis on Friday night. (Tipoff approximately 9:30 p.m. EDT on CBS).
There may be not be enough tickets for all the NKU fans who said they want to go.
There may not have been a prouder moment for NKU, even though the men’s team played in the Division II finals in 1996 and 1997 and the women’s team won two D-II titles in 2000 and 2008.
"The community deserves this. They waited so long,” said NKU vice president Sue Moore. “This university was built in 1968 on farmland and look at what it's become."
Megan Thorncroft, a freshman, couldn’t have been more excited.
"The whole community is getting together and it’s really nice because we’re still a growing school and it’s just going to help us grow more in the long run," she said.
“Going to March Madness and dancing for the first time, it’s great.”