At least 10 videos on YouTube show the fans rushing the court at the Nutter Center in the aftermath of Wright State’s victory over Butler in the 2007 Horizon League championship game. A sea of humanity engulfed the players as they celebrated the program’s second NCAA tournament berth.
Wright State coach Billy Donlon has never showed the players the highlights of that game. It’s something he might do, he said, if the Raiders were to win two games this weekend and advance to the final on Tuesday.
Of course, the players themselves, who were all in high school or middle school in 2007, could find the footage themselves with a couple of finger taps on their iPhones. Junior forward AJ Pacher, for one, said he hasn’t.
“I got a little taste of that when we beat Butler my freshman year,” Pacher said. “That was by far the greatest feeling I’ve had as a basketball player. It was incredible.
“I just know whatever it takes to get it done, to get a championship would be the greatest feeling. (Donlon) always talks about how you have to get to the NCAA and make some noise, but the hardest thing for a mid-major team is getting there.”
The path to the tournament for the Raiders is a simple one, but the task is tall.
No. 3 seed Wright State (19-11) has to beat No. 6 Youngstown State (17-14) at the quarterfinals at 6 p.m. Friday at Valparaiso. Then it would face No. 2 Detroit at 6 p.m. Saturday in the semifinals. The championship game three days later would probably be against No. 1 Valparaiso.
Recent history suggests the Raiders have a chance. Cleveland State was the third seed in 2009 when it beat the Nos. 7, 2 and 1 seeds. Just a year ago, the No. 3 seed, Detroit, beat the Nos. 6, 2 and 1 seeds to win the championship.
If Wright State wins two games this weekend, it would have to find something to do for three days in Valparaiso, while it waited for the championship game and a primetime game on ESPN, or it could get out of town and head to Chicago. But that would be a good problem to have.
The one thing Donlon isn’t doing is looking ahead. The Raiders will go nowhere if they can’t defeat Youngstown, a team they beat 72-45 just six days ago at the Nutter Center.
“In our league, I don’t think anybody is 27 points better than anybody,” Donlon said. “We played well. Youngstown didn’t play their best game. It was kind of a perfect storm. We have to move past that.”