First-year Wright State coach Scott Nagy has the same challenge with his schedule that other mid-major programs face — having to go on the road for guaranteed paydays against teams you’re not supposed to beat.
But the difference between Nagy and most of his peers is that he believes the plusses outweigh the minuses.
The Raiders have three “buy” games this season, including one at Penn State at 5 p.m. Saturday. That means they’ll take a payout — typically $70,000 to $90,000 — to play on the road without getting a home game in return.
While that certainly helps the bottom line, it’s not the way to pad the won-loss record.
“I’d love to get away from it if we could. We’re not far from that point. But we want to play some of those games anyway, because if you can get the right ones — where you get bought and have a pretty good chance to win — that’s a good deal for you,” Nagy said.
That’s already happened this season. Wright State played at Southern Illinois and stunned the Salukis in their home opener. It was the first time the Raiders have won a “buy” game.
Their other play-for-pay game this year is Wednesday at Loyola (Ill.).
That lineup isn’t as daunting as what they’ve taken on in the past. They’ve faced Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State, Indiana and Xavier in recent seasons, ending up with lopsided defeats.
“We want to play a couple of high majors every year,” Nagy said. “They’re not going to come here. They’re going to end up being buy games anyway. We don’t necessarily want to play them because of the money. We want to play them because it helps us recruit. Like, ‘We’re going to play Penn State or Ohio State.’
“Players want to play against those people, that’s the main thing. But you don’t want to have to play a lot of them because that’s really hard on the kids.”
This year’s mix of buy games is exactly what Nagy has in mind — one against a power-conference school and two with comparable foes.
That formula worked for him during his 21 years at South Dakota State, where his teams beat the likes of New Mexico, Washington, Iowa, TCU, Illinois State and Minnesota on the road.
“We want to figure out where we can get that same amount of money and have a decent chance to win the game,” he said.
The Raiders are coming off an 81-74 loss at Georgia State, concluding a two-game series with the Panthers. They had defensive breakdowns and 19 turnovers, but the one facet they appear to be able to count on is foul shooting.
They were 19 of 22 as Grant Benzinger went 8 for 9 and Mark Alstork 5 for 5.
They’re second nationally in free throws made (178) and third in attempts (233) out of 351 Division I teams.
They’re shooting 76.4 percent, which is 34th nationally.
That was a glaring weakness last season when they relied more on outside shooting than attacking the basket. They were 261st in free throws made and 263rd in attempts.
“We have kids who are pretty confident. They’re not afraid when they get in tough situations,” Nagy said. “We’ve seen that on the free-throw line, making them in pressure situations.
“But the things that are going to win on the road are rebounding and defense, and we’re just average at those things right now. We have to change that.”
Who: Wright State (6-2) at Penn State (3-2)
When: 5 p.m. Saturday
Where: Bryce Jordan Center,
University Park, Pa.
TV/Radio: BTN-plus, 106.5-FM