SAN DIEGO — It’s quite the reward for picking up the school’s first NCAA Tournament victory.
Depending on your point of view, it just may not be the most enjoyable.
Wright State will have a crack at knocking off the South Region’s No. 1-seed, Arizona, champions of the Pac-12 Conference, at Viejas Arena in San Diego. The scheduled game time tip is 7:27 p.m. and will be broadcast on TruTV.
Under first-year head coach Tommy Lloyd, the Wildcasts have rebounded from a postseason ban to become one of the top teams in the nation. With 13 freshman on the roster, the most of any team in the country, Arizona is making its first NCAA appearance since 2018 when it lost by 21 as a No. 4-seed against Buffalo.
Arizona is listed as a 21.5-point favorite against Wright State according to the bookmakers at Circa Sports.
“I don’t know a lot about them because I don’t look ahead,” Nagy said after Wednesday’s win. “I heard on the TV the other day, even before we were going to play them, somebody said they’re the second biggest team in the country. That’s obviously going to be a problem.”
It is so the case as UA’s average effective height usage makes it the second-tallest team in the country, according to KenPom.com, and they put it to use by making more than 57 percent of its shot two-point shot attempts.
The Raiders scored 93 points in its First Four victory on Wednesday and may need another similar performance as the Wildcats average 84.6 per game, good for third in the country.
Nagy said he had not gotten a chance to do a full scouting report of Wright State’s next opponent and would be doing a crash course on the flight to the west coast.
What he has undoubtedly noticed is the Raiders needing to find a matchup for 7 foot, 1 inch, Christian Koloko. He is seventh in the country in blocked shots (92) but on offense is shooting 63 percent from inside the arc and is 77 percent from the free throw line.
“The question is can we get shots around the basket,” Nagy said. “Can we rebound the ball? All those kind of things. And can we guard them in the post.”
Questionable to play will be star guard Kerr Kriisa, who suffered an injury during the Pac-12 Tournament. Bennedict Mathurin will be one of his top replacements if he cannot play, and is the top three-point threat after making 37 percent of his shots from beyond the arc this season.
“I think obviously they’ll be a tough matchup but we’re not here just to enjoy this one,” Grant Basile said. “We’ll look ahead and we’ll get ready to go tonight and we’ll be ready to go.”
Wright State will be looking for its big three to step up again to have a chance at a win.
Tanner Holden scored 37 points in the win against Bryant and outplayed the nation’s leading scorer in the process. Trey Calvin, who hit the winning shot during the conference tournament, had 21 points. Basile, the conference tournament’s MVP, also scored 14 in the win.
Wright State’s 11-point win over Bryant was the first in the NCAA Tournament by a Horizon League team since Butler reached the National Championship game during the 2011 season.
Only one 16-seed has ever defeated an opposing one, when Maryland-Baltimore County pulled off one of the tournament’s most shocking wins against Virginia in 2018. The majority of the other 143 games involving 16 and 1 seeds in tournament history haven’t fared well for the underdog.
Holden after the win said facing Arizona doesn’t leave a lasting desire to celebration the initial win, acknowledging the public will not be giving the Raiders much of a chance. At the same time, he thinks it will be fun to matchup against one of the country’s best squads.
”I feel like needing to stick to our principles that we’ve done all year that got us the wins on the defensive end,” Holden said of what will be needed to win. “Offense will come and go, but if our defense is solid, we’ll definitelyy make it a game. I think we’re all confident. We’re going there to win. Like I said before, we’re not just coming in just for the experience of March Madness. We really want to win, really want to make a name for our schools, ourselves and this program.”