Wright State Raiders: Nagy getting most out of his talent

Wright State men’s basketball coach Scott Nagy. FILE PHOTO

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Wright State men’s basketball coach Scott Nagy. FILE PHOTO

Wright State players have endeared themselves to coach Scott Nagy — and not just because they stormed to only the second Horizon League title in program history.

What he likes about them is that they’ve done it without any attributes that are plain for all to see. They’re giving up a conference-low 67.8 points per game, but Nagy seems to rail about defensive deficiencies nearly every other game. And they’re in the bottom half of the league in 3-point shooting, although accuracy from deep was the difference in at least a few games.

»RELATED: WSU clinches share of league title

Asked how he’d describe his team, Nagy said: “That’s a good question because we’re a little bit of a mess. It’s not your traditional championship team for sure.

“We’re not going to beat anyone because we’re way more talented. That’s not the way it works for us. The one constant is how hard these guys play and how much they care.”

That’s been evident throughout the season, which has had its share of adversity, and it certainly will be an asset as they shoot for their second-straight trip to the NCAA tournament by sweeping three games in the conference tourney.

The top-seeded Raiders (19-12, 13-5) will play at the Nutter Center against eighth-seeded IUPUI (16-15, 8-10) at 8 p.m. Tuesday, while fourth-seeded Green Bay hosts No. 5 UIC at the same time. The winners will meet at 7 p.m. Monday, March 11, at Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena.

On the other side of the bracket, second-seeded Northern Kentucky gets a visit from No. 7 Detroit Mercy at 7 p.m. Wednesday, while third-seeded Oakland hosts sixth-seeded Youngstown State at the same time.

The Wright State women (24-6, 16-2) also are the top seed and will begin their quest to reach the NCAA tourney for the second time against eighth-seeded Oakland (6-23, 3-13) at home at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The Raider men are assured of an NIT bid as the top seed — the WNIT has a different selection format, though the women appear to have locked up a postseason berth — but that’s a taboo subject for Nagy.

“You really don’t like to have stuff in your back pocket because human nature can take over and you say, ‘If this doesn’t work out, we have that,’” he said. “If you don’t have anything else, your desperation level is higher.

“It’s great for the program to have that. But you want your kids as desperate as they can be. If you’re the No. 1 seed, you can play in a real nice national tournament, but you can’t take a breather. If you take a breather in college basketball, you’re going to get whipped.”

The league tourney has been tough to predict. Last year, regular-season champ Northern Kentucky lost in the first round to lowly Cleveland State. The eighth-seeded Vikings made it all the way to the finals before losing to Wright State to finish 12-23.

Northern Kentucky won in 2017 and Green Bay in 2016 as No. 4 seeds. Milwaukee prevailed in 2014 as a five seed — beating Wright State at the Nutter Center in the finals.

In the last 10 seasons, the top seed has won the title just three times.

Along with last year’s title run, Nagy captured three Summit League tourney crowns at South Dakota State. And though every journey has been different, he said teams that prevail in the end are usually known for their smarts and maturity.

“The less I have to coach, the better. And those teams just kind of took it over. They know what they’re supposed to do, and I don’t have to say a lot and have big pregame speeches,” Nagy said. “They just completely understand and take over, and I’d say that’s been very common with this team for sure.”


TUESDAY’S GAME

IUPUI at Wright State, 8 p.m., ESPN+, 106.5-FM

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