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Welcome back to the Trentonian's Full-Court Press blog. Yes, we're still alive, and with the 2015-16 season rapidly approaching, it's time to fire up the old blog for another season. Check back here throughout the year for updates on all things Rider and Princeton, including coverage of both the MAAC and Ivy League. Feel free to drop me a line on twitter @kj_franko ( or email

Thursday, March 5, 2015

3 questions for Rider ahead of MAAC Tournament

Rider head coach Kevin Baggett. (John Blaine Photo)

Three days in March.

Rider head coach Kevin Baggett understands that’s how it works in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference if the Broncs are going to claim the league’s automatic NCAA tournament berth for the first time.

They’ll have to win three games in three days.

“Our guys have the right mindset,” Baggett said. “They understand they’re playing for each other. They’re playing for the opportunity to try and get us back in the (NCAA) tournament.”

Rider hasn’t had a ticket to the Big Dance since 1994 when it was still a member of the Northeast Conference.
It won’t be easy since they’ll have to do it without star center Matt Lopez, who is out for the season with a torn ACL.

But the Broncs (21-10, 15-5) have found a way to win tight games all season. They’re 21 victories mark the first 20-win season since 2010-11, while the 15 conference wins are the most since joining the MAAC in 1997.

Baggett should be named Coach of the Year at the league’s awards banquet Friday night.

“We’ve had some good winning streaks along the way,” Baggett said. “Right now we’re on a two-game winning streak and we got to add three more to it to get to five in a row.”

Here are three questions facing the Broncs, who are seeded second, ahead of their tournament opener Saturday at the Times Union Center in Albany, New York.

How will the Broncs perform without Lopez?

That’s the million-dollar question. Rider went 3-1 without its 7-foot center in the regular season, but winning three games in three days is a whole different animal.

Baggett will count on the trio of Junior Fortunat, Kahlil Thomas and Xavier Lundy to fill the void.

Lundy, in particular, has stepped up in Lopez’s absence. The sophomore from Paulsboro put up career bests in points (17) and rebounds (9) in the victory over Monmouth that clinched the second seed. He followed that up with 12 and nine against Marist.

“Our guys understand it’s the next-man up,” Baggett said. “That’s the way we’ve handled things all year. We’ve been able to manage and persevere throughout the entire year.”

Who can be an unsung hero?

How about Zedric Sadler.

The junior guard has relished his role off the bench, which isn’t lost on Baggett.

“When it comes time to guard the other teams best player, he’s that guy,” the coach said. “When you need energy from a guy to come off the bench whether it be scoring or just to get after guys and set the tone, he does that.”

Sadler hasn’t scored in double figures since a loss to Siena on Feb. 2, but he certainly has the capability to do so.

If the Broncs are going to make a big run, you just get the feeling they are going to need a big Sadler game along the way.

What’s the bracket look like?

Rider will face Saint Peter’s (15-7) in the quarterfinals after the Peacocks dismantled Fairfield in the 7/10 game.
Beyond that, it’s hard to tell since the MAAC tourney tends to be a crapshoot, but the best bet is a semifinal date with Manhattan. The Broncs swept the Jaspers, winning both games in overtime. The aforementioned Lopez had 27 points and 10 rebounds in the second meeting.

If the old cliché holds true — it’s hard to beat the same team three times in one season — a potential semifinal against the Jaspers (not to mention SPU quarters) could be a slippery slope.

Rider has been eliminated in the quarterfinals each of the past three years.

“In terms of favorable matchups, I don’t know about that, but I do know each and every team is going to go into the tournament feeling like they got a chance to win,” Baggett said. “I think we’re just like the other 10 teams in that we have a chance. You just have to go out there and get it done.”


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