Wright State looking to continue success against MAC under Nagy

FAIRBORN — If the Horizon League is ever looking to pit its teams against another league to create some buzz in December, the Mid-American Conference would be a logical partner.

The ACC-Big Ten Challenge is the best-known interconference competition and the first of the bunch, having started in 1999. But the idea has trickled down to the mid-major level.

There’s a Big Sky-Summit League Challenge. And the Atlantic Sun is joining with the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference for a series.

For the HL and MAC, the geography works. And they’re close in conference RPI rankings with the MAC 22nd and the HL 25th among 32 leagues nationally, according to the WarrenNolan.com ratings.

But as much as it might make sense, Wright State coach Scott Nagy doesn’t see it happening.

“I don’t think the MAC really respects our league all that much, to be honest with you,” he said. “Just in terms of recruiting against them and other things, I don’t think they see us as on the same level as them.”

The MAC does have what the Horizon League has lacked: NCAA tourney success.

After Butler’s back-to-back trips to the NCAA finals in 2010 and ‘11, the HL didn’t win another game until the Raiders prevailed in the First Four last season.

The MAC, though, has been a dangerous draw. Ohio upset Virginia in 2021, and Buffalo beat Arizona State in 2019 and Arizona in 2018.

“Anytime one of our teams play theirs, there’s probably something to prove,” Nagy said.

While the HL may not get league-wide respect, MAC teams know by now they’ll be tested by the Raiders.

Nagy will take an 11-7 record against the league into Thursday’s game at Miami. He’s 4-2 against the RedHawks.

“It’s a bit of a rivalry because the schools are so close. I think it’ll be a highly contested game,” he said.

Nagy will be facing his third Miami coach in seven years at Wright State.

Travis Steele is in his first season with the RedHawks after being let go at Xavier. He had a 70-50 record in four years with the Musketeers, including a 31-37 mark in the Big East with two NIT appearances.

Jack Owens was fired after last season, compiling a 70-83 record in five years. He’s now an assistant at Ohio State.

John Cooper also had a five-year run before Owens, going 59-100.

The RedHawks are just 5-6, but their offensive prowess has Nagy concerned.

They lead the nation in free-throw shooting at 83%. And while the pint-sized Mekhi Lairy (5-foot-8, 145 pounds), who is in his fifth season and averages a team-high 17.4 points, could cause problems with his quickness, he has plenty of help.

“They have seven guys averaging eight points or better. That’s a lot,” Nagy said. “Offensively, they’re very good.”


Wright State at Miami, 7 p.m., ESPN+, 980, 1450

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