Saturday, February 19, 2011

Five (or so) pregame thoughts: Wright State

Not the Wright for whom Wright State is named after, but the card I got in every single pack of 1986 Topps. (I bet @NUHF knows what I'm talking about) Twenty-five years later it finally comes in handy!

1.) So what IS a Wright State, anyway? It was founded in Dayton, OH in 1964 and, according to the school’s website, was originally known as the Dayton branch of the Miami and Ohio State Universities (hmm sounds like IUPUI). One year later, the Ohio legislature began the process of turning the school into the state’s eighth four-year university. Dozens of names were considered, per this very entertaining and informative link, and the original choice—Wright Brothers University—was dropped in favor of Southwestern State University before Wright State University was finally approved by the House and Senate in Ohio. The name change took effect for the 1967-68 academic year. According to Wikipedia, which is never wrong, there are just shy of 20,000 students enrolled at Wright State this academic year. And now you know.

Also: Ironically, in that it’s not ironic at all, the school nickname is Raiders, even though Wright State is named after the brothers who invented the airplane, while crosstown rival Dayton is nicknamed the Flyers. Of course, Dayton was founded in 1850, so that whole 11-decade head start kind of gave Dayton the jump on grabbing “Flyers.”

2.) The Raiders are the anti-Dutchmen in that they enter on a three-game losing streak in which they have fallen by a combined 12 points (their last two losses were by two points apiece) while the Dutchmen have won four in a row by a combined 17, including their last two by three points apiece. But Wright State’s overall body of work in close games is very Hofstra-esque. The Raiders are 17-12 overall and 8-5 in games decided by six points or less. The Dutchmen are 18-9 and 8-3 in games decided by six points or less. So, as usual, expect another nail-biter.

3.) This is a matchup of similarly styled teams. The two squads shoot almost the exact same from 3-point land (36.9 percent for Wright State, 36.8 percent for the Dutchmen), are proficient at the free throw line (76.2 percent for Hofstra, 74 percent for Wright State) and have trouble on the boards, where the Raiders are outrebounded by an average of 3.8 per game (the Dutchmen’s deficit is 4.7). The Dutchmen should have an advantage in that department today, though: Three players (David Imes, Mike Moore and Greg Washington) are averaging at least five rebounds per game as opposed to none for Wright State, which averages just 27 total rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. The Raiders’ tallest starter is 6-foot-8 Cooper Land, which should give Imes (two straight double-digit rebounding games) and Washington a chance to put up solid numbers on both ends of the floor.

4.) It’ll be interesting to see how the Dutchmen fare with only their second morning start of the season. The first one was also on ESPNU but that’s about the only similarity between battling Nebraska to avoid last place in the Puerto Rico Classic following the disheartening loss to Western Kentucky and heading into Wright State bursting with momentum. The Dutchmen flew out to Dayton early Thursday, so they should be as well-rested as possible after the classic marathon win Tuesday over William & Mary in which the five starters played 203 out of a possible 225 minutes, Charles Jenkins, Mike Moore and Brad Kelleher all played more than 40 minutes and Imes and Washington played 38 apiece. Still, preparing for an 11 a.m. start is different than preparing for a 7 p.m. start (thanks Captain Obvious!) and I wouldn’t be shocked if both teams get off to a slow start as they shake off the cobwebs.

5.) Wright State is quite good at defending the 3-pointer (opponents are shooting just 32.9 percent from beyond the arc) so it’ll be an even better sign than usual if the Dutchmen can find someone other than Jenkins and Moore to hit a couple from outside. This would seem to be a prime setting for Shemiye McLendon (two games with multiple 3-pointers since Jan. 1) to break out. Remember: The Dutchmen are 11-0 when Kelleher and/or McLendon hits at least two 3-pointers.

5b.) The Dutchmen have been atypically inconsistent from the free throw line the last four games, during which they have shot 71 percent (64-of-90). They missed just 28 free throws in their preceding 10 games combined. Expect the Dutchmen to regain their form at the charity stripe this morning and early afternoon.

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