NCAA countdown: No. 52 Wright State
by Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports
The first word: Ah, what a difference a year makes. Last preseason, Wright State was picked to finish last in the Horizon League. Heading into this season, the Raiders are the clear-cut favorites to win the conference.
Billy Donlon, one of the youngest coaches in college basketball at the ripe old age of 36, enters his fourth season at the helm, bringing back nearly his entire roster — all five starters and last year’s top nine scorers return.
Wright State fell in the championship game of the Horizon League tournament to Bryce Drew-coached Valparaiso, settling for a postseason appearance in the College Basketball Invitational. Being that close will be a sure-fire drive for this year’s veteran-laden squad, which also welcomes Butler transfer Chrishawn Hopkins.
2012-13 in review: 23-13 overall (10-6 Horizon League), lost in CBI second round.
Tournament projection: No. 12 seed.
Path to the dance: Winning the Horizon League tournament is the only route. The Horizon, while still a strong mid-major league, isn’t what it used to be when Butler was playing in back-to-back national championship games. But remember the Bulldogs didn’t win the league when they went back to the title game. This is a conference rich in history for strong NCAA tournament upsets.
Conference outlook: Valparaiso was the top team in the regular season and tournament last year, but this year Wright State has a path to both titles. Still, there will be challengers. Cleveland State, which brings back Anton Grady, and Wisconsin-Green Bay are poised for strong seasons. And it’s impossible to rule out Detroit and Valpo.
Mark your calendar: Wright State plays at Georgetown on Nov. 13.
Coach’s corner: “It’s harder to get into the NCAA tournament than it is to win in it. Championships aren’t won on paper, and we can’t pay attention to the preseason hype any more than we did last year when we were picked dead last.” — Donlon, last year’s Horizon League coach of the year.
Star watch: Forward Cole Darling returns as the team’s leading scorer (11.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg), while speedy 5-9 point guard Reggie Arceneaux (8.9 ppg) comes … [For more on College basketball countdown: No. 52 Wright State, click here.]