I went with my buddy Steve Weiss to the Horizon League Championship game Tuesday night, which featured the Wright State Raiders against the 19th ranked Butler Bulldogs as the featured game on ESPN. This 60 to 55 win by the Raiders was in front of a sold-out crowd of 10,500 fans, and was easily the loudest and rowdiest crowd that I’ve seen in the last 10 years of college basketball.
As a result of the victory, the Raiders receive an automatic bid to the NCAA post-season tournament (commonly known as “March Madness”). This is only the second time that the Raiders have made it to the tournament in nearly 20 years of playing Division 1 basketball… While many folks may not be familiar with the Horizon League, it’s considered a “mid-major” in that it’s typically ranked 12th to 14th out of the 32 Division 1 college basketball conferences around the country.
The 2007 Raiders are really a fantastic story of a “Cinderella team”. The Raiders hired a new coach late last year and had many players leave the team. In fact, Wright State played much of this season with only 9 players, and started the year with a 3-5 record. The new coach took an undersized team with a talented 5′ 10″ point guard and found ways to win games. It’s important to recognize that they beat a top-20 team twice this year (Butler beat Indiana, Gonzaga, and Tennessee earlier this season).
I’m happy that my co-worker Becky Keller was able to make it for the second half of the game. She and her husband have been supporters of Raiders roundball for many years. They’ve been in attendance at the “Nutt House” supporting the Raiders when there are only 2,000 fans in attendance… and she has supported the team on the road when they’ve played at places such as Loyola of Chicago… (She’s even in attendance when other teams are playing at the Nutt House). Becky was actually working out of town and came straight to the game from the airport… way to go Beckster!