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NIT First Round Preview: Louisville vs. Northern Kentucky

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Go Cards.

Northern Kentucky v Kentucky Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

National Invitation Tournament - First Round

No. 2 Louisville Cardinals (20-13) vs. No. 7 Northern Kentucky Norse (22-9)

Game Time: 7 p.m.

Location: KFC Yum Center: Louisville, Ky.

Television: ESPN

Announcers: Anish Shroff (play-by play) and Dino Gaudio (analyst)

Favorite: Louisville by 7.5

Probable Starting Lineups:

Series: First non-exhibition meeting

Exhibition Series: Louisville leads 2-0

Exhibition Series History:

Relevant Videos:

About Northern Kentucky:

The Norse are in just their sixth season as a member of Division-I, and their second of being postseason eligible. A year ago, NKU won the Horizon League Tournament and qualified for the NCAA Tournament in their first season of eligibility. They played a competitive game before falling to second-seeded Kentucky in the first round. This year, Northern Kentucky won the Horizon League regular season title — earning an automatic bid to the NIT in the process — but were stunned by eight-seeded Cleveland State in the quarterfinals of their conference tournament.

NKU is led by junior forward Drew McDonald, who enters Tuesday nearly averaging a double-double at 16.9 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Ballard High School product Lavone Holland II is second on the team in scoring at 13.5 ppg and first in assists at 4.5 apg. Holland was a high school teammate of Louisville’s Quentin Snider, graduating one year earlier than the Cardinal senior. Tyler Sharpe, who was a walk-on at U of L last season, has come on late in the season as a primary contributor for NKU, averaging 6.8 ppg and shooting nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc.

Notable:

—This is Louisville’s 15th appearance in the NIT. The Cardinals have a 14-14 record in the event and have reached the national semifinals on three occasions. U of L won the 1956 NIT Championship.

—Since navigating the transition period and earning active Division I status prior to the start of the 2016-17 season, NKU has posted a combined 46-20 record (.697).

—Louisville has won its last three home games in the NIT.

—Louisville is fourth in the nation in blocked shots at 6.2 bpg.

—Individually, Anas Mahmoud is seventh in the nation in blocked shots (3.0).

—Louisville has made 41.9 percent of their threes over the last 10 games (93-of-222) and is third in the ACC in three-point percentage for conference games only (.382). UofL is 15-3 when it makes eight or more three-pointers in a game. The Cardinals made a combined 19-of-37 threes in its two games in the ACC Tournament (.514).

—Northern Kentucky is 17th in the nation in 2-point field goal percent (56.6).

—NKU is averaging 16.5 assists per game, a mark that ranks 23rd in the nation. It also only commits 12.4 turnovers an outing. Combining those two marks results in an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.33, the 35th-best in the country.

—Louisville is one of just four schools which have won 20 or more games in each of the last 16 seasons (also Kansas, Duke and Gonzaga).

Ken Pomeroy Prediction: Louisville 78, Northern Kentucky 68