Broncs to be viewed by national audience again on ESPN

By David Pavlak

The ESPN Tip-Off Marathon is a 24-hour event featured on the top sports network, which signifies that the first day of college basketball has finally come back to the masses. Games begin at midnight on Nov. 13 and run all the way into the next day. For the second straight year, Rider has been given the 6 a.m. game on a national network — but does it deserve it?

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy watching the Broncs showcase their talent to a national audience, but they are also the team that has done the least in the MAAC. Nearly every other team has found success within the MAAC except for Rider.

Iona has won seven MAAC championships with the last coming in 2006. Siena was more recently one of the most dominant teams in the conference. The Saints sat atop the MAAC conference for three seasons when they won the championships in 2008, 2009 and 2010. They were the number one seed in each of those tournaments. Manhattan had back-to-back championships in 2003 and 2004 while Niagara won the title in 2005 and 2007. St. Peter’s locked up a surprising championship win in 2011, after knocking off the number-one seeded Fairfield in the semifinals before defeating the number-two seeded Iona Gaels in the finals. Canisius and Fairfield haven’t found recent success on the hardwood, but both won titles in the late ’90s, and Loyola (MD) was the most recent champion to be crowned when it knocked off Fairfield in 2012.

The Broncs have made it to the championship game twice — once in 2005 against Niagara and the other in 2008 against Siena — but Rider lost both games by more than 20 points.

So why is Rider being graced with the privilege of ESPN coverage when everyone has been able to outshine us at the end of year? It can’t be because the Broncs played memorably during last year’s 6 a.m. game. Even though the Broncs hung around with Drexel in the first half, the early morning looked like it had gotten the best of Rider as the team ultimately ended up losing 80-62. Doug Gottlieb, one of the play-by-play announcers from last year’s game, seemed as uninterested about being at Rider as anyone else, constantly referencing other games going on or that were to happen later that night. The kid who showed up in a banana costume received nearly as much press as the game itself.

The Broncs have a difficult task on their hands this year when they take on Stony Brook during the 6 a.m. game. The Sea Wolves finished 22-9 and won the America East conference last year. The team went on to the NIT and lost in a close game against top-ranked Seton Hall. One potential benefit for the Broncs is that Stony Brook’s guard Bryan Doughner, who averaged 13.2 points per game last year, graduated. Stony Brook also ranked fifth in the nation in rebound margin (7.9) and 12th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing its opponents an average of 59 points per game.

The Broncs are coming into this contest with a team that looks very good on paper, but time has yet to tell if that will result in wins on the court.

Junior guard Nurideen Lindsey highlights the Broncs’ squad this year after transferring from St. John’s. Lindsey, along with junior forward Danny Stewart, junior guard Anthony Myles and senior guard Jon Thompson, will finally try to bring the Broncs into MAAC basketball greatness this season — something that other qualified members of the Broncs haven’t been able do in years past.

Maybe the second time will be the charm for the Broncs as they once again step onto the hardwood early on that Tuesday morning.

Contact this writer at pavlakd@theridernews.com

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