With only one starter returning, one would have had a hard time seeing the fast start to the season by Rider University. It helps that the returnee was superb sophomore point guard Stevie Jordan. Still, their pre-conference resume makes them one of the favorites in a very down MAAC.
Their season began with an easy win over often tough Hampton followed by an expected blowout loss to Xavier. Since that time, an easy win over Hartford, a win at George Washington and two wins in Vegas over traditionally good Cal State Irvine (the Anteaters!) and again over Hampton have the Broncs rolling. Their most impressive outing yet was their most recent game, leading at tournament bound Providence with 5 minutes to go before losing a tough one 88-84.
On the other bench, the high of the upset of Houston is long gone. Drexel is not yet showing the improvement I expected in year 2 of the Spiker era. Their most recent two games have not been good. NJIT is down this year and Lafayette has sadly (I love Fran O’Hanlon, I love the purity of the program) been down for a very long time. Off a blowout loss in Newark one would have expected Drexel to feast against the well coached but unathletic Leopards. Instead Drexel struggled versus the zone and had to make a miracle comeback to get the W.
Does the late rally, give them the confidence, a better sense of the effort needed to play modern Division I basketball? Maybe the confidence will be there, but the effort level seems to be a significant concern.
With Rider’s short bus ride and exam time coming, there does not figure to be much of a home court advantage for the Dragons. Rider won a back and forth affair last year behind a big game from the aforementioned Jordan. It might come a bit easier this year.
Rider 88 Drexel 81