Early impressions of Wright State men’s basketball

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It’s time for the men’s team to get their early impressions article! No fanfare, let’s get right into it.

The Wright State Raiders are 0-3 – There’s no way to get around it and no way to spin it into a funny caption, the Raiders are currently winless. Wright State took an embarrassing loss to Colorado State 105-77, a night that saw the Raiders battle through to the half and take a double digit lead early but fail in every capacity on defense in the second half, resulting in Colorado State dropping 60 points on the squad. Coach Nagy himself remarked in a post-game conference how he was disappointed with that game.

Against Toledo, the team went down to the wire in a 78-77 loss. On the floor, the Raiders made every effort they could to separate against a Toledo offense that has seen some explosive runs. The Raiders kept that offense going into full gear but it was a dogfight the whole way through, neither team allowing more than two possessions of separation. Sure, there’s an argument to be had that the loss was due to a final play call that Toledo saw right through – Trey Calvin can only be so much of a superhero when you’ve got him double marked from the get-go – but that same play call worked against Louisville.

Against Indiana, the Raiders lost that superhero. Calvin injured his shoulder in shootarounds and was ruled out before the start of the game. I’m not a betting person, but it sure was funny to watch the betting lines take a 6 point swing the other direction once Calvin’s injury was disclosed, and it’s a testament to Calvin’s skill that it influenced Wright State’s perceived chances that much. The game began with Indiana running all over the Raiders, but then Wright State clawed its way back into the contest on its offensive power. After clawing within two, Indiana clamped down on the frontcourt efforts of Noel and Braun and ended the match 89-80, a much closer effort than the Hoosier faithful would’ve liked to see considering Calvin’s absence.

“It’s hard not to be result based,” Nagy remarked after being asked about team morale.

Nagy’s words ring true. An 0-3 start on paper doesn’t inspire confidence in a team, but I’m here to tell you that the results are not indicative of anything. The team is oozing with talent that is incredibly hard to defend. When the opponent has a certain strength, such as Indiana’s frontcourt defense, another part of the offense steps up to seamlessly take its place. There’s so much to enjoy about Raider basketball right now that it’s only a matter of time before Wright State enters the win column.

Wright State had one game where they were caught with their pants down. The other two were close, contested matches that could’ve been flipped the other way just as easily. It’s worth noting as well that Wright State’s opponents so far have not suffered a loss and are all floating in the Top 100 of the league in KenPom. The Gulf Coast Showcase will provide the next opportunity for the Raiders to get that first win.

No weak links in offense – Trey Calvin and Tanner Holden have not lost any step together and are barreling down defenses to score points in stellar fashion. Brandon Noel and AJ Braun found points in the paint consistently against Toledo. Alex Huibregtse and Andrew Welage made Indiana’s suspect defense pay, with Welage putting up a career night of 25 points on 7-10 3FG. The efforts of freshmen Drey Carter, Logan Woods, and KK Brown are bringing the offense together and supporting new roles throughout.

Wright State’s offense has been consistent in scoring, with the lowest score so far from major competition being the 77 points against Colorado State. Their efforts on the offensive glass have been key to securing the second chance points should a layup go awry. It’s very clear that the Raiders have the potential to outscore opponents, so what’s holding it back?

Defensive and other woes – Wright State is allowing their opponents to shoot them off the floor. Indiana owned the frontcourt so thoroughly that they outshot the Raiders in the paint two to one. The defense has been victimized over and over by players driving to the rim, and when stops happen someone else is outside ready to try again successfully. Brandon Noel said after the Toledo game that while the defense struggled at Colorado State, the effort was there in waves against Toledo.

Right now, Nagy’s man to man has been the strength since that is what he practices and preaches, but zone has been effective in getting shots that Nagy would like the opponent to take instead. It doesn’t feel like the schemes are the issue; instead, miscues and lapses have been exploited over and over, such as a wide open lane as a result of bunching.

Against Colorado State and Toledo, turnovers haunted the Raiders, allowing the opponent to run down and score easy layups. These easy scores, which Nagy appropriately calls pick-sixes, have been the swing point in the games so far. The Raiders are currently at a -5 per game margin on turnovers, and the point disparity is even wider. Calvin had a major issue with these last season, but has only had one so far in two games. Instead, pressure on the two big men has caused them to panic and turn it over.

Next up – Wright State travels down to Florida to take part in the Gulf Coast Showcase. Their first opponent, Louisiana, allowed Toledo to come from behind in a loss and beat regular season champs Youngstown State at home. The game tips off on FloHoops at 5 pm ET.

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