FAIRBORN — Wright State coach Scott Nagy doesn’t profess to know the complete history of the Horizon League tourney, but he’s aware that what his team is trying to accomplish would be unprecedented.
The Raiders will go into a first-round home game with Green Bay at 7 p.m. Tuesday as the seventh seed, and no team has ever won the title seeded that low.
UIC is the only sixth seed to win the tourney in its 43 years, pulling off three upsets to prevail in 2002 when the league had just nine members.
Another hurdle they’ll have to negotiate is missing out on a bye into the quarterfinals. The only champion that started in the first round and won four straight games was fifth-seeded Milwaukee in 2014.
But none of that matters to Nagy. He led the Raiders to the tourney title last season, and he sees a similar temperament in his squad this year.
“We’d like to be in a different spot, but there’s not a team we don’t think we can beat. Our players know that,” he said.
The Raiders finished the regular-season 17-14 overall and 10-10 in the league. That put them in a tie for sixth with Robert Morris.
But there isn’t much separation between the middle of the conference and the top.
Youngstown State won its first regular-season league crown in program history — covering a span of 40 years in the Ohio Valley Conference, the Summit League and, starting in 2001, the Horizon League.
Picked fifth in the preseason poll, the Penguins finished 15-5, while Milwaukee, Cleveland State and Northern Kentucky tied for second at 14-6.
The Raiders were swept by YSU but just missed out on a road win, losing by two in triple overtime.
They also won both games against second-seeded Milwaukee and split with fourth-seeded NKU.
If the Raiders advance to the quarterfinals Thursday, they’ll play at Milwaukee, as long as sixth-seeded Robert Morris wins its first-round game against IUPUI.
“There’s really just a few players in the league that have ever played in an NCAA tournament, and we have quite a few that have and know how to get there. The belief factor is on our side,” Nagy said.
“None of that guarantees us anything, but at least it gives us a chance.”
The Raiders aren’t exactly riding a wave of momentum, though. They lost three straight road games before winning at Detroit Mercy on Saturday.
But the 2022 champs lost three of their last six games before getting on a roll, beating Oakland at home and Cleveland State and Northern Kentucky at Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
“I don’t know if any of that matters. I don’t know WHAT matters. Teams can be playing terrible and go on a good run,” Nagy said.
“There’s no way to know for sure how to read things. You can have terrible practices and play great or great practices and play terrible. I just know our players think they can do it — because they’ve done it before.”
One area they’ll need to shore up is rebounding. It’s been a strength most of the season, but they were battered on the boards in three of their last four games.
Cleveland State out-rebounded them 46-28, Oakland 42-31 and Detroit Mercy 40-33.
The Titans had 19 offensive rebounds and the Vikings 17.
“Not only are we not doing a good job defensive rebounding, but we’re not offensive rebounding at all, either,” Nagy said.
“I can’t believe how bad the numbers are. That’s probably my biggest concern out of everything right now.”
Green Bay at Wright State, 7 p.m., ESPN+, 980
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