Observations from the first two 2022 Wright State Raiders games

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The Raiders have gone on an impressive streak to start the season in what I would argue is probably the best opening 2-game stretch in Coach Scott Nagy’s tenure. Wright State was up by 21 at one point against Atlantic 10’s Davidson, and while they eventually came back to tie it up and win in double overtime, the Raiders never fell out of the competition. In fact, Davidson only gained an actual lead in the first overtime of the game.

Then came the game at Louisville’s Yum! Center, where the Raiders took the Cards to task for 40 minutes. After going down 72-67 from two pinpoint threes by the Cardinals’ star El Ellis, Wright State found four points from Calvin and Noel to bring the lead to one. After a brilliant tie up by Tim Finke on the final possession, forcing a jump ball and giving the ball back to the Raiders, Trey Calvin calmly took the ball with 8 seconds remaining, eyed up his defenders, made them jump first and laid in the killing blow from 18 feet.

Oh, you haven’t seen those plays? Well, here you go, featuring commentary from SportsCenter:

This win continues the streak of Wright State defeating the ACC opponents they are put up against. After defeating Georgia Tech in 2017 and NC State in 2021, Louisville now becomes the next notch in the Raiders’ belt. As important as it is for us to understand that this Louisville squad is much weaker than it deserves to be, it is also important to understand that wins like these propel a program in more ways than one, and the excitement that this provides to Raider fans and to Horizon League fans (like us!) to see our mid major team win is immense.

Which is why I will be departing from writing a recap for this game. Many others, including Dayton Daily News and Louisville’s Courier-Journal, have done recaps already and the game has been talked about and analyzed by the major players in sports news about Louisville’s faults. I care too much for this Raider squad to let Wright State go unanalyzed, as they’ve been handwoven off as just another mid major team from a 1-bid conference.

With that, let’s begin by looking at the squad’s strengths and where there seems to be more potential needing to be tapped.

First, Wright State’s bench exists, and it should scare you now

What the headlines about the Louisville game won’t tell you is that this game wasn’t won by the starters. Trey Calvin’s jumper to seal the deal will get every amount of the flair that it absolutely deserves, but the credit for the win as a whole belongs solely to the bench.

Bench stats, per ESPN

The Raiders’ bench contributed 34 of the 73 points in the game, shooting 63% as a whole. During the game, it felt like Louisville’s defense had the starter’s numbers, especially Trey Calvin who only got a couple of decent looks to start the contest. Nagy found more success turning to his bigger forwards lying in wait on his bench to generate consistent points underneath, and turned that dial up in the second half to take full advantage of it.

Nagy-run squads, whether by design or not, have not had a consistent bench presence in a very long time. Prior to this match, the coach had mentioned that he needed to start trusting the bench more in long-haul matches such as this, and the bench stood up and delivered throughout. Louisville proved to be the perfect test for them.

And that’s a turnover, and there’s another turnover!

Wright State has been exceedingly good in forcing turnovers these past couple of games; they’ve dragged 36 possessions out of their opponents and are currently operating at a +11 ratio to start the season. Pair that with some phenomenal rebounding efforts by the likes of Amari Davis, Tim Finke, and AJ Braun mopping up the center, and the Raiders are keeping good control of the ball on all sides of the court.

This control was what led Davidson down their spiral to a 21 point deficit in the home opener on Wednesday. When asked by a member of the media how he teaches and develops rebounding, Nagy remarked that recruiting guys that go for those rebounds to begin with is his first step to finding members with that skill. It is paying dividends on the court, and I’m sure Nagy is proud of his team’s efforts.

Trey Calvin is a stud… on offense

He didn’t win Player of the Week for no reason, Trey Calvin has been playing out of his mind to start the season. Tallying 37 points in the thriller in Davidson wasn’t enough, following it up with a 17 point performance three days later would immediately put him in contention for Player of the Year if he keeps pace. Trey Calvin is dynamic on offense, putting up shots from seemingly anywhere on the floor and maintaining a 45% shooting clip while being dogged as the “one to stop” is incredible.

On defense? Well…

I don’t want to go into this part of the article slamming Calvin, he has had the hardest defensive pairings in the two games that have been played so far. Foster Loyer of Davidson and El Ellis of Louisville would cause anyone to start having heart palpitations. But the rub of the matter is that his pairings on defense also score the highest in the game, and so far it has been at a greater margin than Calvin’s own scoring outputs.

Let me provide an example. In the final minutes against Louisville, Calvin’s defensive partner El Ellis puts up two consecutive three pointers to put the game firmly back into the Cardinals’ control. In those two shots, Calvin gets tied up by screens and outmaneuvered by Ellis both times. A similar strategy was performed by Davidson using Foster Loyer at the point as well, especially in the final minutes of the game and into overtime.

To avoid catastrophes, the defense has to hold, especially on the cream of the crop of the opposing teams. Just ask Louisville, I’m sure they regret jumping early to Calvin’s pump fake with seconds remaining.

My kingdom for a three-pointer

I’ll cut to the quick here and get right into the math, Wright State is 13-46 or 28% from behind the arc. The main sniper in the group, Tim Finke, is 4-17, and this isn’t due to bad looks. When a third of the shots you take come from that zone, it needs to be threatening. In years where Wright State didn’t have a three-point attack to speak of to go with their grind into the paint, defenses like Cleveland State’s zone have the ability to carve you to shreds.

While I believe this will get better with time, this doesn’t change my worry that the offense could become one-dimensional. The attack doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to strike fear.

These are my early impressions of watching this iteration of the Raiders’ squad so far. At time of publishing, the Wright State men’s team will be hosting the Bowling Green State University Falcons at 7 pm, and we’ll get to see more of what this team is made of. BGSU recently took down fellow HL member Oakland by 5 and will look to continue their undefeated streak on their way into the Nutter Center.

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