Cincinnati upscale restaurateur Jeff Ruby has promised a free steak dinner for every Northern Kentucky undergraduate student if the No. 15 seed Norse upsets No. 2 seed Kentucky Wildcats in Friday night's Round of 64 matchup.
The Norse, formerly of Division II, qualified for the NCAA tournament in their first year of Division I postseason eligibility after winning the Horizon League tournament. Kentucky, meanwhile, has made 56 NCAA tournament appearances and has won eight national titles. The downtown Cincinnati location of Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse is just 7.6 miles away from Northern Kentucky's campus, but it is also right in the middle of the Wildcats' rabid fan base.
"Yes, this could get very expensive," Ruby admitted to WLWT. "But it's important to me to show support to our hometown organizations. NKU is a real asset to the community as they continue to produce extraordinary talented leaders for our region and beyond."
Ruby estimates that the cost of providing a full steak dinner to 15,000 college students may exceed $1 million, he told WLWT. According to the restaurant's online menu, the cheapest steak available is the 8 oz. Filet Mignon for $42.
Is Ruby's $1 million gamble worth it? According to ESPN's BPI, Kentucky has a 97 percent chance to beat the Norse. It's not unprecedented, however, for a No. 15 seed to defeat a No. 2 seed. Four 15 seeds have upset 2 seeds in the past five NCAA tournaments (4-16 in those games), including Middle Tennessee over Michigan State last season.
-- John Wilmhoff