Wright State’s Nagy on unique league schedule: ‘Everyone has the same challenge’

Wright State's Scott Nagy is the Horizon League Coach of the Year. Wright State Athletics photo
Wright State's Scott Nagy is the Horizon League Coach of the Year. Wright State Athletics photo

Raiders start Horizon League play in December; open season Nov. 25 vs. Ohio

Wright State basketball coach Scott Nagy likes the idea of adding a pair of quality programs to the Horizon League. His attitude is, the more the merrier. And the two newcomers seem like good fits.

Robert Morris, located in Pittsburgh, won the Northeast Conference tournament last season to earn an NCAA berth before the tourney was canceled, and Purdue Fort Wayne made five straight postseason trips from 2014-18.

But the Raiders head into every season hoping to snag an NCAA bid. And while expanding to 12 schools brings welcome stability to the conference — it was down to nine just five years ago — Nagy can see at least one drawback to beefing up.

“Being in a one-bid league, instead of beating nine other teams, you have to beat 11 others. It makes it more difficult to get to the tournament,” Nagy said.

The Raiders will start sizing up the competition next month after the league announced plans to forge ahead with a season, though major changes were required because of Covid-19.

Every team will have 20 conference games, playing five foes at home and five on the road. For safety precautions, the games will be held on consecutive days each weekend until the league tourney.

The Raiders open at Detroit on Dec. 19 and 20 and finish at Northern Kentucky on Feb. 19 and 20. The league tourney starts after that at IUPUI.

The only league team they won’t face in the regular season is Purdue Fort Wayne.

No fans will be allowed to attend the games until at least January.

“Psychologically, it’s different to play a team two times in the same weekend. It’s probably going to be more difficult to beat a team twice than if you played them once in December and once in February,” Nagy said.

"Any playoff series — like baseball or basketball — how difficult is it to win back-to-back games? Usually, one teams wins and then the other team wins because they have an advantage in motivation.

“But everyone has the same challenge.”

Getting each doubleheader in will depend on how well the teams manage the virus, of course. And Nagy said some of his players have been absent during preseason practice because of league protocols.

If a single player or staff member tests positive, the whole team is shut down for 14 days.

And even if the Raiders stay completely virus-free, that still doesn’t mean they’ll reach 20 games.

“You can be healthy, but what if the team you’re playing can’t play?” Nagy said. “It’s going to be real interesting to see how many games we’re going to actually get in.”

The NCAA is allowing a maximum of 27 regular-season games, and the Raiders appear to have six non-league foes nailed down.

They’ll open the season against Ohio University on Nov. 25 in a multi-team event at Illinois. They’ll also play the Illini and North Carolina A&T.

Nagy said they’ve lined up home games against Miami and Marshall and are working on one more.

They’re accustomed to playing about twice as many non-league games.

“Here we are three weeks before the start of the season, and we don’t have a schedule done yet,” he said. "But you have to be OK with everything being abnormal. Every day, it’s going to change. You can’t be surprised by it.

“You make the adjustments and go and don’t complain about it. That’s not going to help. This is just the way it is.”

Free pass: The NCAA isn’t counting this season toward a player’s four years of eligibility — and is giving schools a waiver next year to go over the 13 scholarship limit for one season — but Nagy isn’t sure yet what that means for his team.

Loudon Love, Jaylon Hall, Tim Finke, James Manns and Andre Harris have already taken a redshirt year, either for injury or developmental purposes, and Nagy questions whether they’d want to stick around as sixth-year seniors with a degree already in hand.

“Tim Finke is in his third year,” he said, referring to the sophomore transfer guard, “and I guarantee he’s not even THINKING about that right now. We’re not going to know if those kids want to do it until down the road.”

Freshman injured: Brandon Noel, a 6-8 freshman from Chillicothe High School, has suffered what Nagy said is a lower-leg injury and will be out for the season. He was a first-team Division I all-state pick last season.

Noel’s absence leaves the Raiders with 10 scholarship players, including two other true freshmen in guards Alex Huibregtse and Andrew Welage, and Nagy said all of them will get meaningful minutes.

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