Here's another in the series previewing MAAC teams.
Up now ...
2011-12 RECORD TO DATE: 0-2 in MAAC play, 3-11 overall.
2010-11 RECORD: 13-5 in MAAC play, 23-11 overall.
COACHES' PRESEASON PREDICTION: 4th in MAAC.
KEY RETURNEES (This season's statistics): 6-7 sophomore forward Daniel Stewart (13.4 points, 7.1 rebounds), 6-8 senior forward Brandon Penn (10.9, 5.3), 6-5 sophomore guard Anthony Myles (9.5, 2.9), 6-7 senior forward Novar Gadson (7.6, 2.6), 6-7 junior guard Jonathan Thompson (7.6, 3.2).
KEY LOSSES: 6-4 guard Justin Robinson (15.2, 3.9 assists), 6-7 forward Mike Ringold (12.1, 5.4).
NOTES: Way to much transition to have expected a fast start, and one didn't happen as the Broncs started 1-10 before winning two straight prior to a loss at Stony Brook on Friday ... Still, a lot of talent in place and no reason to believe that coach Tommy Dempsey, one of the conference's better at his job, won't find a way to turn things around ... The primary scorer was expected to be Jeff Jones, a 6-4 guard and a transfer from Virginia, but he has been good some nights and not so good on others, averaging 13.4 points thus far ... Stewart, last year's Rookie of the Year in the conference, has made the next step and is among the league's better forwards... But the team lost its best player (point guard Robinson) and its hardest-working big man (Ringold), any team's two-most important positions and Rider is finding it tough to fill those two roles ... More transition? Thompson missed two games early due to a suspension left over from late last year, and Gadson, an offensive force, isn't yet fully recovered from a knee injury suffered late last season... And, the team has moved 6-0 freshman guard Eddie Mitchell into the starting lineup and he is improving, getting six assists in a recent game... Then, another expected contributor, 6-9 freshman Junior Fortunat wasn't immediately eligible, but has played the last five games and gives the team a nice big man off the bench... The team legitimately goes nine deep, has height inside and talent in the backcourt.
HOW RIDER CAN SUCCEED: By getting experience. The freshmen, Mitchell and Fortunate, will both get better. Gadson, theoretically, will get stronger and better as the year progresses. And, just by playing together, the team should benefit.Just about everyone is playing a new role this year, so it takes some time to adjust. Rider certainly didn't expect to start this slow, but it's somewhat understandable. What won't be so easy to digest, though, will be if the slow start continues.
PREDICTION:Too much talent here for the season to continue the way it has so far. The guess is that once the guards (Mitchell, Thompson particularly) get more experience in their roles, Gadson gets healthier and Jones gets more comfortable, things will get right for Rider. Right now, it would be had to envision the Broncs challenging for the top three spots, but finishing fourth or fifth, considering the slow start, would be a nice result.