Wright State basketball: Raiders kick off season against strong foes

FAIRBORN — If Wright State coach Scott Nagy was worried about maintaining his glittering career record, he probably wouldn’t have had his team tackling such an ambitious non-league schedule.

The Raiders open Wednesday against visiting Davidson, the defending Atlantic 10 regular-season champs. The Wildcats went 27-7 and played in the NCAA tourney, dropping a 74-73 decision to Michigan State.

Nagy wants his teams to be pushed before the Horizon League, but they usually ease into the season with lighter foes instead of taking on an A-10 toughie.

“Whether we play really well or don’t — it’s one game,” he said. “There’s so much more than just this. Obviously, it’ll be a really good test for us, and it’ll be one of the best teams we’ll play this year. But I’m certainly not putting everything on it, either.”

The Raiders play at Louisville on Saturday. They also have trips to Western Kentucky, Akron and Miami along with a three-game mid-major event in Las Vegas.

They opened last season against Division-II Lake Erie.

In 2020-21, they traveled to Marshall before hosting Miami. They were supposed to play in Illinois’ four-team tourney with winnable games against Ohio U. and North Carolina A&T but had to pull out because of Covid-19.

In 2019-20, they opened against Central State and then visited Miami. And in Nagy’s first three seasons, they started with exhibitions against lesser foes to help get the kinks worked out.

“We’ve had a couple scrimmages,” said Nagy, meaning 40-minute matchups with Kent State at home and Ball State on the road. “At some point, you’ve got to play, and you’ve got to play good people.”

Nagy’s only concern with the schedule is the risk that his players will lose confidence if they take a couple of losses.

That’s what happened last season during a 2-7 start. Of course, they finished with a flourish, capturing the HL tourney as a four seed and winning an NCAA game in the First Four in Dayton.

“I can be in danger of (growing impatient) more than anyone else — just wanting to arrive right away. But we’ve got young 4′s and 5′s (power forwards and centers). They need time to develop.

“They’re not going to be guys who we can necessarily lean on and count on right away. They COULD be. But my experience is there will be some ups and downs with it.”

Nagy, who is 541-303 in his 28th year as a head coach, still hasn’t decided on his five starters yet. That could take some trial and error.

Point guard Trey Calvin and wings Tim Finke and Amari Davis figure to be the Big 3, logging the most minutes. But while the Raiders have options in the frontcourt, their depth took a hit when senior center C.J. Wilbourn, who made six starts last season, was ruled out until at least Christmas because of foot surgery.

“The thing I think we’ll probably struggle with most is which combination of players will be the most effective. Some of the combinations are better offensively and not quite as good defensively, and some are the other way around.

“There’s a good chance (the lineup) could change quite a bit until we play a few games and get a better feel.”

Davidson, which opens Monday at home against Division-III Guilford College, was picked eighth in the A-10 preseason poll.

Longtime coach Bob McKillop retired after last season and was replaced by his son, Matt McKillop, the former lead assistant.

The Raiders were picked third in the HL poll — despite dealing with the transfers of stars Tanner Holden and Grant Basile.

In three seasons, Holden climbed to 11th on Wright State’s career scoring list with 1,481 points, while Basile is 21st with 1,228. Both are in the top 10 in career rebounds.

“I feel like for us, it’s going to take some time,” Nagy said. “Offensively, we’re not quite where I want to be. We’re rebounding the ball better than I thought we would, but, defensively, we still have a long way to go.

“We’re starting Wednesday against a good team. I don’t know what that’ll look like. There’s still a lot of stuff for us to work on.”

WEDNESDAY’S GAME

Davidson at Wright State, 7 p.m., ESPN+

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