"It's truly an honor to take over such a storied program at the University of Cincinnati," Brannen said in a statement. "The Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky community is special to my family and we are happy to remain at home.
"We are thrilled to join a world-class university and continue to build on the historic success of Bearcats basketball and the incredible lineage of former coaches."
Brannen posted an 81-51 record and led the Norse to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances over his four-year tenure. Northern Kentucky also captured two Horizon League regular-season titles and two conference tournament championships under Brannen.
The 45-year-old, who was the Horizon League's Coach of the Year in 2017, will take over for Mick Cronin, who accepted the head coaching position at UCLA last week.
"(Brannen) has a proven record as a head coach, longtime ties to the local community, and coaches an exciting style of basketball," said Cincinnati athletic director Mike Bohn. "We were impressed with his passion, drive, determination, and basketball acumen during the interview process where he truly emerged as the best coach to lead the Cincinnati basketball program with a bright future."
The Bearcats (28-7) finished 14-4 in AAC regular-season play and claimed their second straight AAC Tournament championship. But Cincinnati was eliminated in the first round of this year's NCAA Tournament and advanced past the first weekend just once during Cronin's 13-season run.