Prognosticators appear to agree on Wright State’s upcoming NCAA Tournament destination.
The Raiders haven’t played at UD Arena since Dec. 13, 1997, which was the end of the “Gem City Jam” series between it and the crosstown rival Flyers. A poor showing by the Horizon League as a whole this season appears to be sending its champion across town.
Bracketmatrix.com, which compiles 123 “experts” predictions from across the country, listed Wright State 66th of the projected 68-team field as of Thursday.
ESPN’s noted bracket prophet Joe Lunardi, as well as CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm, both see WSU taking the 20-minute bus trip to south of downtown Dayton.
Bart Torvik, who runs a highly regarded computer rankings website, has Wright State projected to be ranked dead last in the field.
It wasn’t an improbable run to a Horizon League championship, but it felt unlikely to happen at several points during the season. The Raiders were picked second in the league’s preseason poll but got off to a 2-7 start and were not competitive in several losses. After a seven-game winning streak righted the course, the team ended up as the league tournament’s No. 4-seed due to uneven numbers of league games played but still were close to being the favorite in Indianapolis behind Cleveland State.
In the tournament itself, Wright State had to make two comebacks from 14-plus point deficits, including in the championship game against Northern Kentucky on Tuesday.
The win secured the school’s fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament. WSU first went in 1993 as a 16-seed after winning the Mid-Continent Conference, losing 97-54 to No. 1 Indiana in Indianapolis. Being ranked as a 14-seed after its other two HL titles, the team suffered a pair of losses against No. 3-seeds, 79-58 against Pittsburgh in Buffalo, N.Y., in 2007 and 73-47 against Tennessee in Dallas in 2018.
The metrics usually only heard when evaluating potential at-large candidates on the bubble still come into play for ranking the rest of the field as well. And they don’t bode well for the Raiders.
Wright State played only one game against an opponent listed in the first two quadrants of the NCAA’s NET rankings, which it lost. After that, it has a 5-5 mark in Q3, with the remaining 15-7 record coming against the bottom Q4 opponents.
Those marks can be summed up to say Wright State played one good team, losing at Purdue, and struggled against its own level of competition.
Should it lead to Wright State getting a No. 16-seed, it would be the first time a Horizon League champion is ranked that low. Last year’s automatic qualifier was Cleveland State, which received a 15 seed.
The two closest first and second round venues are Indianapolis and Pittsburgh. To improve the likelihood of being placed at one of those sites, Wright State likely needs to get a 15-seed. It would help potential match-ups with other local teams projected to receive high seeds, such as Kentucky, which are likely to be selected to play at those sites. Should the Raiders get a 16, three of the current four project No. 1-seeds are West Coast schools.
Ticket prices for either Tuesday or Wednesday’s First Four sessions at UD Arena are currently priced as low as $30 on ticketmaster.com. Wright State will learn its fate when the bracket is revealed on Sunday.
Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on Twitter @Steven_Wright_.