Wright State on being picked to win Horizon League: ‘It’s a pressure we love’

The Wright State men’s basketball team may have surprised some Horizon League foes last season by emerging as the conference tourney champ after being picked fifth in the preseason poll. But star center Louden Love and his cohorts won’t be able to count on that underdog status as a source of motivation this year.

The Raiders were selected as the league favorite in a vote of coaches, media and sports information directors. They were picked first on 25 of 40 ballots.

»RELATED: Five questions facing the Raiders

It’s the first time in program history that Wright State has been a preseason conference favorite. But coach Scott Nagy said: “Just ‘cause you’re picked that doesn’t mean you’ll finish that — it’s not where things finished last year.”

He appreciates the league-wide respect, though.

“We want people to expect we’ll be good. We want to be that type of program. We don’t shy away from that. There’s some pressures that go with it, but that’s OK. Our guys have to be able to handle that,” he said.

Sophomore center Louden Love was named preseason first-team all-league, while senior guard Mark Hughes earned second-team honors.

»RELATED: New ranking system will help determine NCAA field

“All preseason awards — a lot of it is opinion,” said Love, who averaged 12.9 points and a conference-best 9.7 rebounds last season while being named second-team all-league and freshman of the year. “Nothing is really proven. It’s something I have to work toward. Obviously, it’s a long season ahead.”

Hughes averaged 9.7 points and 3.1 assists last season. He was seventh in the league with 63 three-pointers.

“It’s good for Mark to understand how people see him. Being second team didn’t come from us, it came from other people,” said Nagy, noting that coaches can’t vote for their own players. “It will give him confidence.”

Northern Kentucky, which received 10 first-place votes, was picked second, while UIC (four first-place nods) was third.

They were followed by Oakland, Green Bay, IUPUI, Cleveland State, Milwaukee, Youngstown State and Detroit Mercy. Milwaukee received the other vote for first.

Northern Kentucky’s Drew McDonald was named preseason player of the year. The other first-team picks were Cleveland State’s Tyree Appleby, Green Bay’s Sandy Cohen II and UIC’s Marcus Ottey.

“We know teams are going to be shooting for us,” Love said. “That definitely adds to the pressure. But if you want to be great at something, you have to deal with it anyway. It’s a pressure we love.”

The Raiders return four starters from a team that finished 25-10 last season while setting a school record for wins.

“The goal is to win the league and win the tournament and get to the NCAAs and see what kind of damage we can do. We played Loyola (a Final Four team) in the first game of the season and have seen several teams at our level advance in the tournament,” Nagy said.

“But I don’t care how good we are, it’s hard to win 25 games. There’s a lot of factors that go into it. One is to stay healthy, and we’re struggling with that a little bit right now,” Nagy added, though declining to provide specifics. “But if we’re healthy, that gives us a shot.”

TICKETS: Wright State is offering a couple of ticket specials this season.

The Attack the MAC 2-pack costs $25 and will include games against Toledo and Miami of the Mid-American Conference along with one of the two outings against non-Division I foes, Cedarville or Northwestern Ohio.

The One-A-Month package costs $35 and will include the choice of one game each month from November to February.

For info, call the ticket office at (937) 775-4934 or email Raidertix@wright.edu.

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