Wright State was picked as the Horizon League men’s basketball preseason favorite for the second year in a row Tuesday.
And though coach Scott Nagy is pleased his program is so highly regarded, he just hopes his players don’t let the expectations weigh them down this time.
The Raiders finished as regular-season co-champs with Northern Kentucky at 13-5 in 2018-19, but they fell to the Norse in the conference tourney finals and never could quite recover from a ragged start.
Coming off an NCAA tourney appearance, they finished 6-7 in non-league games, including 4-7 against Division I foes.
“I think we’re more suited to handle the pressure of it than we were last year — No. 1, because we’re healthier at this point and we’re deeper and even more experienced. Our players are a little more used to people looking at them (as the team to beat) and know they’re going to get their best shot,” Nagy said.
Wright State received 28 of 36 first-place votes in a poll of coaches, media and sports information directors. NKU, which picked up five first-place votes, was second, followed by UIC, Oakland, Green Bay, Youngstown State, Milwaukee, Detroit Mercy, IUPUI and Cleveland State.
The Raiders open the season at home against Central State at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5. They travel to Miami on Saturday, Nov. 9.
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“Last year’s team had such a poor start, and we just didn’t practice well in the fall. We were just very, very satisfied with the whole NCAA experience,” Nagy said. “It’s hard to stay on top. Success is hard to handle. Sometimes you can just get satisfied. That’s when for sure you’re going to get beat.
“But we’re hungrier and understand the pressure of (being picked first). I’d rather have that pressure than the pressure of being bad.”
Wright State junior center Louden Love, who averaged 15.1 points and 8.2 rebounds last year, was named preseason first team all-league. Teammate Bill Wampler, a senior wing who averaged 15.0 points and made a team-high 78 three-pointers, was a second-team pick.
Detroit sophomore sensation Antoine Davis, who was the nation’s third-leading scorer last season with a 26.1 average, was selected as the preseason player of the year. He broke Steph Curry’s NCAA record for 3-pointers by a freshman with 128.
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Other first-team picks were NKU’s Jalen Tate, Oakland’s Xavier Hill-Mais and UIC’s Tarkus Ferguson.
The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Love made the all-league first team last season and has shown more mobility in practice after shedding about 25 pounds.
“Loudon is playing great,” Nagy said. “This is the best I’ve ever seen him play. He’s got a great motor. I think going against (6-9) Grant Basile in practice has made him better — someone bigger and longer that he has to learn how to score over.
“He’s had a really, really good fall. He’s nearly impossible to stop right now.”
Wampler was a second-team all-league pick last season. Joining him on the preseason second team was Youngstown State sophomore guard Darius Quisenberry, a Wayne High School product, who averaged 13.8 points and 3.8 assists last season.
NATIONAL TV GAMES: The Raiders will appear on ESPN networks at least three times this season: Jan. 24 against Northern Kentucky (ESPNU), Feb. 14 against UIC (ESPN2) and Feb. 28 at NKU (ESPNU).
Their game at Oakland on Jan. 3 also is being considered.
The semifinals and finals of the conference tournament will be carried on either ESPNU, ESPN2 or ESPN.