As a Rider University alumnus and NCAA Tournament fanatic, with approximately 56 hours until tip-off, now seems like a good time to take stock of Rider’s road to the Big Dance.
The Rider University Broncs’ (18 – 13) men’s basketball team finished the regular season with a five-game winning streak, earning themselves the second seed in the MAAC Tournament and a first-round bye. Rider will play the winner of Friday night’s Fairfield / St. Peter’s matchup. The Broncs haven’t advanced to the Conference Finals since the 2007-08 season.
With that as the background, I’m going to size up Rider’s potential matchups on Saturday and give you my prediction of how it will play out.
St. Peter’s College Peacocks
Rider swept the tenth-seeded St. Peters Peacocks (9 – 20) this season, which finished their regular season losing four out of their last five games. Rider won by a 12-point margin on January 17th and by a 15-point margin on February 14th. The Broncs shot 51% and 59% from the field, respectively. To give you a sense of how well Rider shot in those games: of the 345 Division I teams, the teams with the best field-goal percentage this season are Creighton (51.1%), Weber State (51.0%), and Gonzaga (50.5%). While Rider’s shooting proficiency in those two games is well above the team’s field-goal percentage for the season (43.9%), I would feel extremely confident if St. Peters was Rider’s first Tournament foe. I would not feel as confident, however, in the Broncs’ matchup with the Fairfield University Stags, the seventh seed in the MAAC Tournament.
Fairfield University Stags
The Fairfield Stags (17 – 14) beat Rider twice this year, but have lost three games in a row. There are three things that will determine Rider’s fate against Fairfield in the MAAC Quarterfinals:
- limiting turnovers
- controlling offensive rebounds
- stopping Maurice Barrow
Rider committed 30 turnovers in their home game on December 9th game against Fairfield, 19 of which were steals. The turnovers led to 29 points for the Stags. Rider guard Nurideen Lindsey committed 7 turnovers alone in that game in only 15 minutes of playing time.
Fairfield (11.2) averages almost two offensive rebounds per game more than Rider (9.7). Fairfield had a slight offensive rebounding edge in their first matchup of the season, 11 – 9, but the Stags really pounded the offensive glass in their second matchup, grabbing 10 to Rider’s four.
Fairfield junior forward Maurice Barrow has long been a thorn in the side of the Broncs. In his freshman year, he had a double-double (11 points, 13 rebounds) in a game at Rider. He had another great game against Rider (15 points, 16 rebounds) in his sophomore season. But he saved his best games against Rider for the 2012 – 2013 season. In the December game at Rider, he scored 13 points and snagged 10 rebounds in the 65 – 52 Fairfield victory, and he scored 25 points with 10 rebounds in a 69 – 59 Fairfield victory on February 1st.
(7) Fairfield 79, (10) St. Peter’s 69
(2) Rider 68, (7) Fairfield 65