After an intense amount of waiting for Selection Sunday to finally arrive, the Wright State Raiders partied down with a crowd of about four hundred to celebrate a season that has been highlighted by hardship and tenacity.
During the public watch party, Nagy made note of the hardships that he and his players faced throughout the season, the tragedy of losing loved ones both due to COVID and also other ailments. Tanner Holden’s grandfather became a center point for the media to focus on during the game as he warmed up in a shirt that memorialized his achievements. President Susan Edwards then spoke to the crowd, saying simply that “Nothing can take away those last ten seconds in Indianapolis.”
The hour struck six and the Raiders sat down to learn their fate. They were destined for a play-in game against the NEC Champion, Bryant University, as a 16 seed. The playing field would be right in Wright State’s backyard in UD Arena, a stadium that the Raiders haven’t played in since 1997.
Wright State (21-13) and Bryant (22-9) will meet for the first time in school history. The NEC Champion Bulldogs bring a dominant force in senior Peter Kiss, who has been averaging an astounding 25 points per game, along with Charles Pride and Adham Eleeda, the latter of whom is familiar with the Raiders after spending the majority of his career at NKU.
Wright State brings a similar trio of weapons in Grant Basile, Tanner Holden, and Trey Calvin, whose offensive production throughout the season has been the reason for the Raiders’ blitz through the tournament. Both teams are rated fairly low in terms of team defense, but have an offensive production that is ranked in the top 75 of all schools.
Both teams, being from mid-major conferences, don’t have any comparable wins to directly contrast with each other. Their non-conference schedules were not favorable to the squads, nor their conferences for that matter, but the main difference appears to be Bryant’s total control of the NEC, where they only lost twice in close fashion. Bryant famously took total control of the title game against Wagner as well, holding the squad to 12 points in the first half. There was also a fight in the stands where the fans had to be separated and both teams had to leave the floor in one of the more stunning spectacles of March basketball.
At #191 and #192 NET respectively and with some solid offenses, it’s going to come down to the wire on this First Four competition, so let’s break down what the Raiders should do to come out of UD Arena as the survivor.
Blake’s Keys to the Game
If Wright State wants to win this game, they will need to be completely on top of the Bulldogs, literally. Grant Basile and AJ Braun both beat out the Bulldogs in terms of size and can provide a superiority in the match that some teams this season have found hard to match. NC State comes directly to mind, where Wright State enforced its will on the squad by simply out-muscling them at every opportunity.
It’s also worth noting that this game takes place in Dayton. In UD Arena. If any neutral stadium could be considered a home field advantage, it would definitely be this one, and possibly even more so if you consider that Wright State’s men have actively sought out a match with the Flyers.
My thoughts about the Gem City Jam aside, it’s worth noting this because the Raiders are a team that feeds off the energy of a crowd. We saw it throughout the Horizon League tournament as the Nutter Center/Indy crowd seemed to rally the Raiders to overcome the double digit deficits set to them by Oakland and NKU. Bryant is going to walk into Dayton a complete stranger and the full force of the city is going to be behind the green and gold.
Wright State vs. Bryant tips off at 6:40 pm on Wednesday, March 16th. The winner gets to then hop aboard a plane to San Diego to face #1 Arizona at 7:27 pm on Friday, March 18th. Go Raiders!