Wright State basketball: Nagy hopes scrimmages will help clear up position battles

Wright State head coach Scott Nagy, center, watches the action against Green Bay as center Loudon Love waits to reenter during a men's basketball game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020. E.L. Hubbard/CONTRIBUTED
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Wright State head coach Scott Nagy, center, watches the action against Green Bay as center Loudon Love waits to reenter during a men's basketball game at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020. E.L. Hubbard/CONTRIBUTED

FAIRBORN — Wright State coach Scott Nagy has been through about four weeks of preseason practice but still hasn’t figured out his playing rotation or even a starting five.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Raiders have a stacked roster, allowing them to attack teams in multiple ways. As Nagy put it: “We have so many different lineups we could play.”

But the problem has been injuries. Nagy doesn’t know what will work because he hasn’t been able to experiment much with combinations.

“It’s been constant — a concussion that puts a guy out a week, a sprained thumb, a sprained knee,” the sixth-year coach said.

“We still have a lot of unanswered questions.”

ExploreRaiders picked 2nd in Horizon League preseason poll

The Raiders should know a little more about themselves in the next week. The NCAA is allowing teams the option of either two exhibition games or two scrimmages, and Nagy has opted for the latter.

They’ll host Eastern Kentucky on Saturday and travel to Ball State next week before diving into the games that count. Their opener is Nov. 9 against visiting Lake Erie College.

Though scrimmages aren’t publicized by schools, college basketball reporter Jeff Goodman compiled a list of every Division I team’s preseason plans.

Nagy would say only what he hopes to accomplish in those outings.

“It’ll be nice to go against different people because it’s been so long. Our players look forward to that. And No. 2, playing teams that play different styles than you will be good for us,” he said.

“You get so used to the way YOU play. We let people catch the ball on the wing, and other teams don’t let you do that at all.”

Another plus will be getting more acclimated to life without two-time Horizon League player of the year Loudon Love.

“We just need to figure out our defense — that’s the most important thing to me. Can we get people stopped?” Nagy said.

“We obviously lost one of the best — in my opinion, THE best defensive player in the league in Loudon. It’s going to be a big change for us. But my sense is we have four or five really good defensive players, and we should be a good defensive team.”

The Raiders had the fifth-best scoring differential in the country last season, averaging 82 points while giving up 67.4, and the sixth-best rebounding margin at plus-9.3.

Nagy would be thrilled to duplicate those numbers, but that won’t be easy after losing the program’s third-leading career scorer and all-time leading rebounder.

“Loudon was always around the rim, so he was always around offensive rebounds,” Nagy said. “We don’t have that right now because our post (Grant Basile) can go out on the floor. We don’t have a 255-pound guy around the rim.

“Can we offensive rebound? Can we defensive rebound? Those are the biggest question marks for me.”

STILL HURTS: The Raiders finished 75th out of 347 D-I teams last season in the NCAA Evaluation Tool ratings, one spot higher than Michigan State and 95 ahead of the next-best Horizon League team, Cleveland State.

They were hoping to parlay a shiny NET number into an NIT bid. But the tourney’s 32-team field was reduced to 16 because of Covid concerns, and the call never came.

The Raiders were an automatic qualifier for that event in 2020, but it was cancelled by the pandemic.

“They talk about the NET, but I’m frustrated with that and don’t know how much we should focus on it anymore — particularly when I looked at who made the NIT and who didn’t,” Nagy said.

Five teams landed NIT berths with worse NET ratings than the Raiders, including No. 80 Dayton.

The Atlantic 10 put four teams in the field, while the Horizon League’s only postseason participant was conference tourney champ Cleveland State, which dropped an 87-56 decision to Houston in an NCAA opener.

“I don’t know how they picked them (in the NIT). There were several teams that were taken that were way behind us. That didn’t feel good,” Nagy said.

“I don’t know what to make of the NET, to be honest with you. And I think a lot of coaches feel that way.”

The Raiders likely would have made the NIT in a normal year, but their schedule probably kept them out.

They didn’t have any wins — or even games — against teams in quadrants 1 and 2. Their 18-6 record was compiled strictly against foes in quadrants 3 and 4.

Until the rest of the league catches up, the Raiders will have to take matters into their own hands — and they’re doing just that.

They’ll play non-league games at Purdue and N.C. State this season. They’ll also be tested by a solid mid-major field at the Naples Invitational.

Selection committees consider several factors, and success against that lineup would certainly work in the Raiders’ favor.

MAKING HIS MARK: The 55-year-old Nagy is already a member of the 500-win club, and his 69-23 Horizon League record puts him in select company.

His .750 winning percentage is currently fifth among HL coaches with a minimum of three seasons. He trails only Butler’s Brad Stevens (.811), Milwaukee’s Bruce Pearl (.797), Valparaiso’s Bryce Drew (.774) and Xavier’s Pete Gillen (.769).

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