Freshmen fuel fire in key second-half stretch

Sports Today: Already a March to remember for Wright State

So, how about those Wright State Raiders? 

Coach Scott Nagy’s team took care of business Tuesday night in Detroit, downing heavy underdog Cleveland State in the Horizon League championship game to claim a bid to the NCAA tournament

Not everyone loves conference tournaments deciding who gets to go to the Big Dance, but it sure worked out of the Raiders this time. 

RELATED: In defense of conference tournament auto-bids

This is as good an example as any of the tournament working out overall because the Horizon League race was close all year. 

Northern Kentucky came out one game better than WSU in the end, but the Raiders swept the season series with the Norse so they can realistically claim being the best team in the league. 

Ironically, Cleveland State was 12-23 but beat both WSU and NKU. 

While their three-point win over the Raiders in February ultimately prevented WSU from claiming a share of the regular season crown, CSU’s upset of the Norse in the league tournament was even more damaging. It assured NKU won’t be going back to the NCAA tournament for a second straight season, but that’s the system. 

It benefited NKU last season as multiple upsets cleared the way for their feel-good run, and now it is Wright State’s turn. 

So, how long will the Raiders be able to hang around next week? 

They will have an uphill climb if they get a 14 or 15 seed, as projected by Joe Lunardi, but this is a team that could be dangerous because of its versatility. 

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The Raiders have a star big man in Loudon Love, a sharp-shooting senior guard in Grant Benzinger, a heady point guard in Cole Gentry and multiple wings who can play defense and get you the occasional basket. 

WSU ranks 49th in defensive efficiency according to, so they are going to make it hard for an opponent to run away and hide.

The question will be if the Raiders can get enough offense… 

Miami University extended coach Chuck Martin’s contract this weekbut only for two years

Is that a message his bosses think he’s done an admirable-but-not-quite-good-enough job? 

Obviously stability is important in college football, and Marin has made enough improvement from the disastrous situation he inherited to earn more years to move the RedHawks further up the MAC food chain. 

However, he still has only three seasons left on his contract. 

That leaves him vulnerable to opponents on the recruiting trail putting a seed of doubt in the minds of current high school juniors about whether or not he will be in Oxford for their entire career. 

So on one hand this is smart business at a time many athletics departments seem all too eager to hand out crazy contracts that will ultimately cost them a lot of money, but on the other it could hinder Martin’s efforts to succeed in the long run, too. 

Then again, if it is a message, it’s probably a fair one. 

Miami failed to build on the momentum from closing the 2016 regular season on a six-game winning streak, losing a couple of games it probably should not have and ultimately missing the postseason. 

Martin’s recruiting has so far been above average compared to the rest of the MAC, though, so that’s good reason for optimism… 

Speaking of college football, spring football is officially underway at Ohio State. 

Urban Meyer was surprisingly candid when speaking about his quarterback race potentially being affected by Joe Burrow’s situation. 

The fourth-year junior is set to graduate this spring and could transfer somewhere else — an opportunity made more enticing by the fact he wouldn’t have to sit out a year before playing. 

If the battle between Burrow and Dwayne Haskins Jr. is close at all — and I suspect it will be — Meyer would probably prefer not to make a definitive decision until preseason practice. 

However, the coach will have to think long and hard about just how likely Burrow would be to overtake Haskins if the sophomore comes out of spring ahead and then convey that message to Burrow. 

Even then Burrow’s decision would presumably be no slam-dunk because he is a competitor and likely knows going to a different situation offers no guarantees, either, because any number of other unforeseen variables could come into play. 

Just ask Malik Zaire. The former Alter star left Notre Dame but ended up in a quarterback quagmire at Florida. 

His father told Cox Media Group in January the Gators coaches sold him a bill of goods, and now he is left to try to continue his football career at the next level without having gained much of any playing experience in college. 

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