Look for ambitious in the dictionary and you might stumble across a Northern Kentucky University Norse logo.
NKU’s men’s basketball schedule, one of the earliest-announced 2013-14 schedules in the country, has been posted on the school’s website since early May.
Todd Johnson, EMHS grad and NKU guard.
But that’s not really the big deal regarding the ambition of the Norse, whose roster includes former Elkhart Memorial star and sophomore-to-be Todd Johnson.
No, the big deal is the set of big names that NKU plans to play in just its second season as a member of NCAA Division I.
First off, Johnson gets an opportunity to return to his home state in his team’s regular-season opener when the Norse visit Purdue of the Big Ten on Nov. 8 in West Lafayette.
But that’s merely the start, in more ways than one.
NKU will follow that game two days later by visiting Rupp Arena to take on Kentucky, which has perhaps the most hyped freshman class in college basketball history and has been accorded the No. 1 slot in some of the early preseason polls.
And, as if one of blue-blood program isn’t enough, the Norse journey to Chapel Hill for a Dec. 27 contest against North Carolina.
The Tar Heels are No. 3 in all-time NCAA DI victories, and the Wildcats No. 1.
Northern Kentucky was already ambitious enough last winter during its inaugural season as a DI member, when its schedule included trips to Ohio State and Texas Tech, but this cranks the ambition meter even further.
The Norse’s 2013-14 schedule also includes the Puerto Vallarta tourney, set for Nov. 23-Dec. 1, with some of that anticipated eight-team field still to be announced.
The list of non-league home games, meanwhile, includes San Diego on Nov. 16 and Navy on Dec. 21.
Later, NKU begins its double round-robin Atlantic Sun Conference slate on Dec. 30 with a visit to none other than Florida Gulf Coast, home of the Sweet 16 darlings of last season’s NCAA Tournament.
The Norse went 11-16 overall and 9-9 in the league during their inaugural DI campaign, surprising some.
Regardless, though, of its records over the next three years, NKU will not play in its league tourney nor qualify for the NCAA Tourney during that time, part of the mandated four-year waiting period for new DI members.
That’s OK. As he’s expressed before, Johnson knew that when he chose the school, and now there are plenty of chances at premier competition anyway. And, chances at some memorable upsets.
Who knows? Maybe Johnson can become the second straight Elkhart Memorial product to be a part of shocking UK, just like Karvel Anderson and Robert Morris University managed during last season’s NIT.