Mike Ringgold, in many ways the spoksesman in years past for ultra-confident Rider teams, smiled after practice Wednesday as he pointed to a wristband with the team's new slogan: Humble and hungry.
"Humble from last year and hungry because we haven't won in years," Ringgold said.
Rider, which opens the season tonight at UMass, is entering the season with a mindset that would have been nearly unrecognizable to the team that opened last season with an upset win over No. 18 Mississippi State.
Those Broncs approached their matchup with the defending SEC tournament champions thinking -- in their minds, knowing -- that they were going to win. Their confidence seemed validated after an eye-opening 88-74 victory.
But coach Tommy Dempsey and others talked of a sense of entitlement that soon began to emerge. Overlooking the preparation needed to beat quality teams, Rider went 17-16, never fully hitting its stride or fully recovering from losing six of its first nine games in the MAAC.
This year's team has talent. Ryan Thompson is gone, having scored more points than all but three players in school history. But Rider's next seven top scorers are back, led by Justin Robinson, Ringgold and Novar Gadson.
Throw in a highly regarded recruiting class led by shooting guard Anthony Myles, and exceeding external expectations -- the Broncs were picked fifth in the 10-team MAAC's presason coaches' poll -- is possible.
But last year taught the Broncs that talent alone isn't enough. This year's Broncs are confident, enough so that a loss tonight would be a disappointment. But the focus is more on preparation and on-court chemistry than on ability.
"Last year was kind of different," Ringgold said. "We did struggle early and it was like that basically the whole season. ... It's always good to get a fresh start. We're going to take a different approach. Actually, by going hard in practice. We have a lot of glue guys -- guys who are going to play their roles. Hopefully that will carry into the games."
This should be a more well-rounded Rider team -- one with several potential stars coming off the bench.
Dempsey is likely to start sophomore Jon Thompson in the backcourt tonight along with Robinson. Brandon Penn and freshman Danny Stewart figure to join Ringgold in the frontcourt, meaning Myles and Gadson -- Rider's most high-profile recruit and its leading returning rebounder, respectively, will come off the bench.
"It's a much different team in so many ways not only with Ryan not being here, but our bench is very different," Dempsey said. "We have three new faces (Myles, Stewart and Tommy Pereira) who will all be a big part of the success or failure of the season -- hopefully a success. ... I'm going to play some different lineups early and some different groups and try to figure things out, especially over the first five games."
Tonight's game presents an opportunity. The Minutemen, under third-year coach Derek Kellogg, are talented but not dominant. Senior guard Anthony Gurley will be a handful and the Mullins Center, when students turn out in full force, isn't an easy place to play.
But UMass has experienced growing pains under Kellogg and was picked 11th out of 14 team's in the preseason Atlantic 10 media poll.
A win would help Rider make a splash.