Trenton Times Preview Of Rider Basketball - UMass Athletics

Trenton Times Preview Of Rider Basketball

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The Trenton Times has a preview of the Rider Broncs, UMass' opening basketball opponent.

Just about a year ago, the Rider University men's basketball team was about to win one of the biggest games in school history, which went on to destroy its season.

Rider's upset of Top 20 Mississippi State in Starkville on opening night set expectations for the season out of control. After a home win over Lehigh, the Broncs were getting votes in the AP Top 25 and were on the road at Virginia, where a win wouldn't have even been considered much of an upset.

Rider, Tommy Dempsey look to do better in MAAC after disappointing season

Published: Wednesday, November 10, 2010, 6:31 PM     Updated: Wednesday, November 10, 2010, 6:44 PM

Mark Eckel is a Trenton Times columnist.

LAWRENCE -- Just about a year ago, the Rider University men's basketball team was about to win one of the biggest games in school history, which went on to destroy its season.

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Rider's upset of Top 20 Mississippi State in Starkville on opening night set expectations for the season out of control. After a home win over Lehigh, the Broncs were getting votes in the AP Top 25 and were on the road at Virginia, where a win wouldn't have even been considered much of an upset.

Robinson.JPGRider is counting on a huge season from Justin Robinson. The senior point guard was named to the All-MAAC Preseason team.

They didn't win that night. They didn't win two nights later at Kentucky. And they didn't win all that often in the conference on the way to a fifth-place finish, either.

"We set the bar high and didn't live up to it," head coach Tommy Dempsey said as he prepared his team for tomorrow night's season opener at UMass. "I take a lot of the blame for that. We never got better. And if you don't get better, you get worse."

You can debate whether the worse it got for Rider during an uneven 17-16 season was a 74-58 loss at Canisius that dropped the Broncs under .500 for a day or an embarrassing 80-54 home loss to Siena that turned the Broncs Zoo in to the Broncs Boo.

"We've talked about last year and used it as motivation," Dempsey said. "We mentioned what went wrong and why it went wrong and how our approach needs to be different."

This year, Rider will be different. For the first time it what seems like forever there will not be a Thompson brother on the team -- there is a Thompson, sophomore guard Jon, but he's not part of the Jason-Ryan NBA-bound family.

"Without Jason, without Ryan, people look at us differently," Dempsey said.

The Broncs will also be a lot of the same. They will rely on the press defensively, even more so than in the past, play an up-tempo offense, spread the court and try to win games in the 80s as opposed to the 50s.

There is also a good nucleus of players back. How good? Despite being picked to finish fifth in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference preseason poll, three Broncs received preseason All-Conference mention -- senior center Mike Ringgold (11.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg), senior point guard Justin Robinson (13.3 ppg) and junior star-in-waiting Novar Gadson (11.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg).

That trio, plus a trio of prize freshmen -- 6-foot-7 Danny Stewart, from powerful Neumann-Goretti in Philadelphia; 6-5 Anthony Miles, one of the best players in the state of Delaware last year and shooting guard Tommy Pereira, from England -- give Dempsey hope for a turnaround not just this year but for the future.

"We have a good blend of six juniors and seniors and five underclassmen," Dempsey said. "I think the freshmen are going to help us, but it's good to have guys like Mike and Justin and Novar who know how to win."

For Rider, winning equates to doing well in the MAAC. This year more than it's been in the past, the conference is wide open. Perennial power Siena has a new head coach after Fran McCaffery left for Iowa where he hangs out with Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore. Niagara, like Rider, is trying to bounce back, and preseason pick Fairfield is a lukewarm favorite at best.

"I don't think there is a dominant team in the league this year," Dempsey said. "The team that plays the hardest and has the best chemistry over the course of the season will probably win. There are at least six teams that can cut the nets down at the end of the season, and we're one of those six."

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