Wright State Continues to Be Surprise Team

I admit it. Even after starting 5-1 in H-League play, I still did not think Wright State was a contender as their schedule was not very tough. In fact, they could have won a couple more games against the middle or lower rung teams, and I still would have not believed. But after the Raider’s 73-62 victory over undisputed #1 Valparaiso on Friday night, Wright State (6-1 in Horizon League) finally deserves their just credit. Now I have not done a complete 180 on this team, and they are still not NCAA Tourney bound in my eyes. But they have positioned themselves to have a great opportunity for that coveted #2 spot in the regular season standings (or maybe even #1?). Let’s be clear that Valpo is still the best team in this league, and whoever is #2 is still miles behind them. But the Raiders are starting to lead the pack of teams on the Crusaders tail. Looking at the stats, Wright State is not a very good team offensively. But they are able to stay in games because they are very good defensively and can control the pace of play to be slower. They are hard to scout for because they are so balanced and several players could have a big game on any given night. Maybe one day it is the dual inside and outside scoring threat of JT Yoho, whereas another day it could be Mark Alstork nailing three’s or Joe Thomasson converting at the free throw line. Five players average between 8.8 and 12.4 points per game. But what has been most impressive is how Wright State finished in their last two games. Against Detroit Mercy, they were down 9 points with under five minutes left and came back to win in improbable fashion. Against Valpo, the Raiders were down a point with under four minutes left and dominated down the stretch. Good teams give themselves chances to win in the majority of their games. Great teams know how to finish in those games consistently. Wright State is clearly the biggest surprise of this young Horizon League season. They were picked eighth  in my initial Upper-Hand Rankings, and moved up to sixth in my most recent rankings. Billy Donlon has to be the favorite for H-League Coach of the Year now, with Linc Darner and Bryce Drew deserving consideration too. Playing that somewhat tough non-conference schedule looks to be paying off for Wright State. What is most important is that they seem to be improving as the season goes on, whereas a team like Oakland is on the downward trend. Is Wright State fully legit? Only time will tell. For now, they are a team to be taken very seriously. If they continue with their improving play into March, their opponents at Joe Louis Arena better watch out!

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6 Responses to Wright State Continues to Be Surprise Team

  1. Raider Doug says:

    Tim, I was introduced to your site by a Titan friend, really enjoy it. Wright State class of 75 living in the Detroit area, and always hungry for Raider info. Really pleased with WSU play since the week before Christmas, starts with defense, playing shorter rotation and not fouling as much, shooting better and not going through long stretches where we can’t score. I am still holding my breath, but WSU message boards are finally/grudgingly starting to recognize the good play. I just hope we can avoid injuries that wrecked last year, get more play from our younger big guys and consistently play the way we are capable. Keep up the good work, I will keep following.


    • Tim says:

      Hi Doug. Thanks so much for reading. I will definitely try to work in more Raider content, especially that they are playing so well. Yeah, it seems like Wright State has a good mix of youth and experience, and that they play really well together. Continuity is an underrated component of teams, especially with a lot of egos in college basketball. Hopefully the injury bug does not bite them this year either. This team is a great example of how the conference slate can truly be like a new season for some teams.


  2. Don Seeko says:

    This is a big weekend for Wright State hitting the road. Friday at OU and Sunday at UDM. RodentDoug, I mean RaiderDoug, will either be flying high or will glide back to some reality.


  3. Tim says:

    Lol. Yeah, this is the kind of weekend where some teams will finally start to separate themselves, and others will fall behind too far to catch up.


  4. Doug Miller says:

    Putting this here, way to early start to 2017-2018 Prediction Season, and congratulations Tim on your new career, I enjoy the films of that era, a class that is sadly missing, has been replaced by CGI and graphic violence in today’s movie making. Wright State Men’s Basketball 2017-2018. Feel free to move this to a more appropriate place on the site.

    Where do I begin. Scott Nagy’s second team will be impacted with multiple Nagy recruits for the first time. Let’s start by covering who is not back this year. Horizon League first teamer Mark Alstork is playing his graduate transfer year at Illinois. Nuff said, no discussions of what might have been, good luck Mark and time to move on. Also gone is previous grad transfer Mike LaTulip, a Illinois walk on who provided valuable service and shooting to Wright State last year. Steven Davis was a fifth year one year wonder, a non qualifier who missed about 1 3/4th years due to injury and ended up close to a Masters Degree and a spot in the NCAA dunk contest. What could have been if the NCAA had granted a 6th year for injury eligibility, and let’s not talk about what would have happened if the request had come from a Power 5 Conference Team. The NCAA is an impartial arbiter, correct? Last and most troubling, Freshman Ryan Custer was the only true first year player to get playing time last year, and he provided admirable support, working hard on defense and showing unexpected offense at times. Ryan suffered a spinal cord injury in April at a Miami U., Ohio party, and is undergoing rigorous medical rehabilitation. We hope and pray that he will regain as much of his physical ability as possible, this is much more important than his Wright State playing career.

    Ok, on to the 17-18 team. Grant Benzinger and Justin Mitchell will be team leaders as seniors. Six foot three inch Grant started as the long gunner who has continued to build his game, he also draws defensive assignments against (much) taller opponents, and scraps and claws. Justin is a 6-4 guard who took over the point last year due to a lack of a true point guard, led the team in rebounding, and is another fighter who has been a big part of Wright State success over the last three years. 6-4 Jr. Mark Hughes has apparently shown tremendous potential in practice and has yet to translate it games, now is the time Mark. Allen Vest, 6-3 Jr. guard is also graded incomplete, he was one of the leading high school scorers in tough Dayton area basketball, son of WSU hall of famer Mark Vest and younger brother of recent Raider starter Matt Vest. Tye Wilburn is a 5-11 walk on guard who played last season and brought high energy when he was in the game. This year the team will add two true point guards, a issue that bothered Coach Nagy all last season. True Freshman 6-1 Tyler Mitchell was a standout in the greater Cincinnati area, led his team to success as a Jr., and watched the team falter in his injury absence as a Sr. Cole Gentry played the first couple months as a Red Shirt Freshman at Coach Nagy’s former South Dakota State, then transferred at the break to Wright State. Gentry will be eligible around 15 December when finals are over and will have 2 1/2 years at Wright State. He was one of the top players in Chicago land as a high school senior.

    Again Wright State will be depth challenged at the “Bigs”, the loss of 6-7 Ryan Custer hurts. Non scholarship 6-11 Parker Ernsthausen is a Red Shirt Jr., and has continued to improve over his career, providing valuable defense and surprising offense at times, hopefully he continues to build his game this year. Loudon Love was considered the number two center in Illinois, and expected to play college football Coach Nagy took the Wright State job and convinced him to change his commitment to Wright State from South Dakota State. He is listed at 6-9 300, but watching him in person and on TV I believe he may have dropped 30-40 pounds while working out his red shirt year rehabbing a football knee injury last year. Hopefully Wright State may have the dominant post player they had during the late 90s, early 2000s (NBA first rounder Vitaly Potopenko, Israel Sheinfeld). Wright State’s additional front line support will be provided by several redshirt or incoming freshmen, 6-6 Everett Winchester sat out last season with Louden Love, 6-7 James Manns spent an additional year in prep school in the Columbus area, and 6-5 freshman Jaylon Hall was a district player of the year finalist in the Louisville area, always a hot basketball talent region. All had good high school careers but are inexperienced, and Manns and Hall could be redshirt candidates depending on where they slot in to the Wright State rotation. Billy Wampler, a 6-6 G/F transfer from Drake (freshman starter) will sit out this year then have three years of eligibility remaining.

    I believe Wright State is getting closer to where Coach Nagy wants to be, more athletic, but not yet bigger and deeper (think Oakland), even though we did beat them by 21 last year at home. Predictions? Beats the heck out of me. As was a tradition over the Billy Donlon years and with Scott Nagy in his first two years as he tries to remake the roster to his liking, we are looking at 5-6 new players competing for playing time. “The experts” typically pick Wright State near the bottom of the HL (thank you Youngstown State, but wait, new coach, whole new roster, is there another Northern Kentucky emerging). Wright State then plays above expectations and competes for but cannot win the Horizon League. Maybe not this year, but Coach Nagy has a plan, is working to assemble the players, wants to make Wright State a perennial Horizon League Championship contender, and be competitive in games with Power 5 conferences, who knows, maybe the unnamed cross town school (whisper Dayton) will be forced to rekindle the rivalry that they lead 5 games to 3.

    That’s My Story and I’m sticking to it. Everything in this post is from minimal information I have gleaned coming out of Wright State and Dayton newspaper sources, message board info and youtube clips, Nothing is coming out of summer workouts, no indication of any late Juco, grad transfer, or other roster additions, it is like injury info, a lower body injury, no timetable, no nothin. Where did all the information go?

    Raider Doug

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tim says:

      Great points Doug and very well written. I am moving this to the homepage. You are now the first ever guest columnist on this website.


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