In two years covering Rider, I've never seen Tommy Dempsey more disgusted with his team's play than he was Friday night after the Broncs' 75-61 loss to Loyola. That game was the first of six home games in Broncs' final nine league games, and Dempsey said in that spot, in that atmosphere, and at that crucial point in the season, he was absolutely shocked that his team played the way it did.
Well, if you're a Rider fan, the only good news is that today's game offers an opportunity for a quick turnaround. At the very least -- at the risk of overstating the obvious -- Rider needs to win. This has been a season of highs (4-1 league start, wins at Iona and Fairfield) and lows (losses at Canisius and at home to Drexel, and of course, Loyola on Friday) and it's hard to imagine more of a potential low than a loss today, which would give the Golden Griffs a season sweep after losing the previous nine meetings.
But Rider also needs to make a statement. The Broncs need better ball movement. They need to play better defense. They need to lock up Frank Turner and Julius Coles, who scored a combined 46 points when the teams met in Buffalo. They need to play well for 40 minutes intstead of just in spurts. More than anything, they need to play well enough that they have something off of which to build heading into next Saturday's game against Siena.
The other MAAC game today is intriguing for a number of reasons.
Can Fairfield pull out another win with what's essentially it's JV team?
Can Loyola make it seven in a row and avoid being swept by the Stags?
I will say this: Even with the Stags at home, I don't see them winning. Loyola is really on a roll. The Hounds are playing right now like a team capable of beating anyone in the league. They may jump to the No. 3 spot in this week's PMI, and if they keep playing like this, Jimmy Patsos has to get at least SOME consideration for MAAC coach of the year. (Though at this point, how could you not vote for the coach whose team is threatening to run the table in the regular season?)
Should be interesting. Should be more interesting than the Super Bowl, in which I'm guaranteeing a Steelers victory by at least 10 points. Should be fun, and I'll check in later with thoughts when the day's action is over.