Wright State’s Nagy: ‘It’ll be our most challenging season yet’

FAIRBORN — Wright State basketball coach Scott Nagy spoke often last season about how the Horizon League schedule — a 20-game marathon that had teams playing the same foe on back-to-back days on a weekend — was a mental and physical grind.

The league warned coaches a year ago about its plans for 2021-22, so nobody can say he didn’t see it coming, but Nagy and his crew won’t be getting a break this season.

The conference unveiled its schedule Wednesday, and it includes an unprecedented 22 league games, meaning every school will play all other members twice (though with the usual spacing between meetings).

“Obviously, it makes for a long conference season — 22 is long,” said Nagy, who is entering his sixth season.

The league played 14 games when Wright State joined in 1994-95. And it fluctuated from 16 to 18 between 2000 and 2020.

Last year’s 20-game schedule wasn’t an outlier nationally — the Big Ten, ACC and PAC-12 all play 20 — but the Horizon may end up being the only conference out of 32 in Division I playing 22 this season.

The Raiders went 18-6 overall and 16-4 in the league, winning a share of its third straight regular-season crown. And if they want to get to four in a row, which is something only Butler has done, they can’t afford many off nights.

“I would say the league, since I’ve been here, is the best it’s ever been,” Nagy said. “That’s a good thing. That’s what we need our league to be.

“The teams are veteran and well-coached, and we’re finally getting to a place where we don’t have a lot of coaching turnover, which provides continuity. It’ll be our most challenging season yet.”

Nagy, though, can see at least one advantage to having so many league games.

“It makes scheduling easier, I can tell you that. You don’t have as many games to schedule outside of the conference,” he said.

Mid-majors have to work the phones like telemarketers to land attractive opponents. And that’s especially true for the talent-rich Raiders, who get a lot of “thanks, but no thanks” from teams looking for automatic wins.

They have to replace Loudon Love, the two-time league player of the year, but they return Tanner Holden (first team all-league), Grant Basile (second team) and Tim Finke (all-defensive team).

They have eight non-league games, down from the typical 13. They start Nov. 9 against Lake Erie College and travel to Purdue on Nov. 16 and North Carolina State on Dec. 22.

“I would say our non-conference schedule is the toughest I’ve ever had. There’s not a game where you’ll have a chance to heal. But we wanted to get to that point with our team,” Nagy said, meaning competitive against Power-5 programs. “I feel like, five years into it, we’re there.”

Nagy arrived at Wright State with lofty goals after a successful 21-year stint at South Dakota State, including three NCAA bids in his last five seasons.

“Our goal is to be an at-large team,” he said. “I think the conventional wisdom is our league will always be a one-bid league. We don’t want to look at it that way. We want to be an at-large team regardless.

“That’s where you need your league games to mean more to have a higher NET (ranking). We’re adding two teams and four conference games to the schedule. We need them to mean something.”

One foe that could provide a NET ranking boost is Milwaukee, which upset the Raiders in the conference quarterfinals last March.

Patrick Baldwin Jr., a 6-9 forward and the No. 4 recruit in the 2021 class (current freshmen), chose to play for his father, Pat Sr., picking the Panthers over Duke and other powers.

“It’s good for the league,” Nagy said, “but there are more teams to worry about than just Milwaukee.”

2021-22 SCHEDULE

Nov. 9 Lake Erie

Nov. 12 at Marshall

Nov. 16 at Purude

Nov. 22 George Washington&

Nov. 23 Kent State/James Madison&

Nov. 24 TBD&

Dec. 2 at Purdue Fort Wayne

Dec. 4 at Cleveland State

Dec. 15 Akron

Dec. 18 Tennessee Tech

Dec. 22 at North Carolina State

Dec. 30 Milwaukee

Jan. 1 Green Bay

Jan. 6 UIC

Jan. 8 IUPUI

Jan. 10 at Northern Kentucky

Jan. 13 at Robert Morris

Jan. 15 at Youngstown State

Jan. 20 at IUPUI

Jan. 22 at UIC

Jan. 28 Cleveland State

Jan. 30 Purdue Fort Wayne

Feb. 3 Detroit Mercy

Feb. 5 Oakland

Feb. 9 at Green Bay

Feb. 11 at Milwaukee

Feb. 13 Northern Kentucky

Feb. 18 at Oakland

Feb. 20 at Detroit Mercy

Feb. 24 Youngstown State

Feb. 26 Robert Morris

& Naples Invitational

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