DALLAS — The Wright State Raiders will have the first crack at a major upset in the 2018 edition of the NCAA Tournament. They will take on the SEC-runner up Volunteers from Tennessee in the second game of the first day of the First Round.
The Raiders (25-9, 14-4 Horizon) finished their season as the Horizon League Champions after a 74-57 win over Cleveland State and are seeking their first NCAA Tournament win in school history. Tennessee (25-8, 13-5 SEC) fell just short of what would have been their first SEC Championship since 1979, losing to Kentucky 72-77 in the title game after beating the Wildcats twice in the regular season.
Wright State started slow, dropping their first three games of the season. Since then, they are 25-6. Tennessee started their season strong with a big win over Purdue, only to drop a couple big games against North Carolina and Arkansas. They finished strong, posting a 16-4 record over their final 20 games with their only losses coming on the road at Missouri, Alabama, and Georgia, and in the SEC Championship against Kentucky.
The 3v14 Matchup
Does Wright State have what it takes to pull the upset against the 3-seed Volunteers? Well, it might not be as farfetched as you think.
From 2000 to 2012, there were only three wins by the 14-seed in the first round. However, in four of the five years since then, there has been at least one first-round exit by a 3-seed. So it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
Magic in March?
The Raiders have what it takes to play spoiler.
They have two senior guards averaging scoring in double figures along with a double-double machine freshman down low that shoots over 50 percent from the field for the season.
Senior guards Grant Benzinger (14.5 points per game, leads team) and Justin Mitchell (11.1 points, 7.1 rebounds) man the backcourt while 6-foot-9, 275-pound freshman center Loudon Love (12.9 points, 9.8 rebounds) holds down the paint. There’s just something about senior guards and dominating big men in March.
Tennessee will be the overwhelming favorite, of course, as they are an SEC powerhouse led by SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams (15.3 points, 6.0 rebounds), Admiral Schofield (13.8 points, 6.3 rebounds) and Lamonte Turner (10.7 points). They have a much stronger resume with wins over the likes of Purdue, Kentucky (twice), Arkansas, Florida and more. That doesn’t make them invincible, though.
Speaking of, let’s look at how their resumes stack up:
|Record||25-8 (13-5)||25-9 (14-4)|
|Vs RPI Top-50||6-6||0-3|
|NCAA Tourney Record||19-21||0-2|
Northern Kentucky (x2)
|Worst Loss||Georgia (RPI 77)||IUPUI (RPI 294)|
Of course, the stats lead toward the Volunteers, but that does not mean that Wright State doesn’t have a chance in this game. That’s the beauty of March Madness. Anyone can beat anyone once.
Don’t Wright them off (okay, that pun is awful) just yet.
Make sure you don’t miss this one. Tipoff is scheduled for 12:40 P.M. ET in Dallas on CBS.