Nobody loves NCAA Championship Week more than I do. I have every intention of sitting on my couch as much as possible until Selection Sunday comes. I’ve decided that I’m going to track the teams from smaller conferences who win their conference championship and therefore earn an automatic bid. I shall then write my thoughts on these teams and determine just how far they will make it in this year’s tourney. We all remember George Mason last season. Will there be another small conference Cinderella in 2007?
All season long the Raiders of Wright State have been ignored by the country. The Horizon League was all about Butler and just how good the only ranked team in the conference actually was. Meanwhile Wright State was quietly earning a tie of the regular season conference title with Butler.
Last Tuesday the Raiders stepped out of the shadows.
Wright State earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by winning the Horizon League tournament championship. They did so by defeating No. 17 Butler in a thriller 60-55. The Wright State victory was called an upset by every media source covering the game, but this was a team full of confidence heading into the championship game.
It didn’t hurt that the title game was being played at Wright State. However, the Raiders defeated Butler once before on their home court. In February Wright State scored a 12-point victory over Butler. The victories over Butler are the only key wins for Wright State during the year. They were stomped by LSU 71-45 back in late December. Bad losses include Bowling Green (13-17, 3-13), Marshall (12-18, 7-9) and Coastal Carolina (15-15, 7-7).
Anybody who watched the Horizon League championship game saw the lone star on the Raiders. Deshaun Wood carried Wright State to the title, scoring 27 points in the win against Butler. This was nothing new for the senior guard. He is the only player on Wright State to average over ten points a game, putting up 19.8 a contest. When combined, four other players average about 8.4 points per game. Suffice to say the fate of the Raiders is in the hands of Deshaun Wood.
Wright State is a combination of youth and experience. This doesn’t matter so much as with other teams, though, as this will be the first time the Raiders have played in the NCAA Tournament since 1993. For every one of these players this is the first time they’ve gone dancing. Whether or not these athletes can keep a steady head will have a big say in how the perform in the first round.
Defeating Butler twice this season will keep the Raiders from being a 15 or 16 seed. Nevertheless they’ll still have a tough road ahead of them. Deshaun Wood has the talent to carry the load, but expect any opponent to put tight pressure on him. It will be up to his teammates to help out, especially if he struggles. If Wood has an off night Wright State will have to play their best game of the year to make it out of the first round.
It’s always interesting to watch a team that lives and dies on a single player. Chances are that Wright State already had their highlight of the season when they won the Horizon League title. Even if they can get out of the first round, I don’t see them going any further.