Broncs announce 2017-18 non-conference schedule
LAWRENCEVILLE, NJ - The Las Vegas Invitational and trips to Xavier, Penn State and Providence highlight the non-conference portion of the 2017-18 Rider University men's basketball schedule. For the second-straight season, the Broncs open the year against Hampton, this time at home on Nov. 10. In addition, the docket features home dates against Hartford, Hofstra and Wagner and road contests at Drexel and Robert Morris.
“We've put together another very challenging non-conference schedule this season,” said Rider Head Coach Kevin Baggett. “With a good mix of high-major teams with NCAA Tournament experience and some very talented mid-major teams, we believe this schedule will prepare us well for the conference portion of the season.”
The year gets underway at Alumni Gym on Nov. 10, when the Hampton Pirates return the Broncs' trip to Virginia last season. Rider took a 67-56 victory over the then-defending MEAC Champions. The Pirates finished the year 14-17 with an 11-5 mark in league play. They advanced to the College Basketball Invitational, where Hampton fell in the first round to Coastal Carolina. The Pirates return top scorer, All-MEAC Third Team and All-Rookie Team performer Jermaine Marrow for his sophomore season after he averaged a team-best 15.6 points and 3.0 assists per game as a freshman. The Broncs are 2-0 all-time against Hampton.
Next up is a Las Vegas Invitational contest at Xavier, which made an impressive run to the Elite Eight last season as an 11 seed, before falling to National Runner-Up Gonzaga a game short of the Final Four. Back for the Musketeers is their leading scorer from 2016-17 in Trevon Bluiett (18.5 ppg., 5.7 rpg.), as well as J.P. Macura (14.4 ppg., 4.4 rpg., team-high 54 steals). However, Edmond Sumner (15.0 ppg.) departed following his sophomore season and was drafted 52nd overall in the 2017 NBA Draft by the Indiana Pacers. The meeting will be the first all-time with Xavier.
On Nov. 15, the Broncs welcome Hartford to Alumni Gym. Rider and the Hawks have met in four of the last five years, with the Broncs owning a 4-1 lead in the all-time series. Most recently, Rider took an 84-68 road victory in West Hartford this past November. The Hawks look to rebound from a 9-23 season in 2016-17, while also losing top scorer Jalen Ross (19.9 ppg.) to graduation. Back in the fold is Jason Dunne, who also averaged in double figures at 13.7 ppg., while making a team-high 37 steals.
The Broncs return to Las Vegas Invitational action on Nov. 20, when they face George Washington on the road. The Colonials won 20 games last season under first-year head coach Maurice Joseph, a year after winning the National Invitation Tournament in 2016. GW must replace top scorer and rebounder Tyler Cavannaugh (18.3 ppg., 8.4 rpg.), who graduated, but brings back another formidable all-around player in Yuta Watanabe, who posted a stat line of 12.2 ppg., 4.8 rpg., 2.5 apg. and 1.1 bpg. The two teams have split four all-time meetings, but will play for the first time since 1971-72.
Up next on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 23, and Black Friday, Nov. 24, are a pair of Las Vegas Invitational contests at Orleans Arena. The full docket has not yet been released, but potential opponents include Hampton, UC Irvine and Northern Arizona.
UC Irvine is coming off a 21-win season in which the Anteaters won the Big West Regular Season Championship, reached the Big West Tournament Championship Game and earned a postseason bid in the National Invitation Tournament. However, UC Irvine must deal with the losses of their top three scorers to graduation, including Big West Player of the Year Luke Nelson. A meeting would be the first in the all-time series between the two teams.
Northern Arizona hopes to rebound from a 9-23 season and a first-round exit in the Big Sky Tournament last year. The Lumberjacks lost six of their top seven scorers from a year ago to either graduation or transfer. UNA's top returner is JoJo Anderson, who averaged 7.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game as a freshman in 2016-17. Rider and Northern Arizona have never met on the hardwood.
A road date at Providence is up next on Nov. 29. The Friars reached the NCAA Tournament last season, falling in a First Four match-up with USC. Former Fairfield Head Coach Ed Cooley has rejuvenated the Friars' program, reaching the NCAA Tournament in each of the last four years after taking over for the 2011-12 season. The Friars return top scorer (15.7 ppg.) and rebounder (6.4 rpg.) Rodney Bullock, a 2017 All-BIG EAST Second Team and USBWA District 1 First Team honoree. Emmitt Holt (12.5 ppg.), Kyron Cartwright (11.4 ppg.) and Jalen Lindsey (10.7 ppg.) also give Providence a solid returning cast.
The Broncs return a home-and-home series with Drexel on Dec. 2. Rider has won both meetings with the Dragons since Baggett took over in 2012-13, including a 90-82 victory last season at Alumni Gym. Overall, the Dragons own a 30-28 lead in the series. Drexel went 9-23 last season and fell in the first round of the CAA Tournament. The Dragons lost their top scorer (15.6 ppg.) and rebounder (6.8 rpg.) Rodney Williams to graduation, but return four starters. Sophomore Kurk Lee (14.9 ppg., 5.0 apg.) headlines the group, while Sammy Mojica (11.2 ppg., 5.3 rpg.), Kari Jonsson (10.1 ppg.), Miles Overton (9.5 ppg.) and Austin Williams (7.1 ppg., 6.3 rpg.) also return for Head Coach Zach Spiker's second year.
On Dec. 6, the Broncs begin a new home-and-home series with Robert Morris with the initial installment coming on the road. Hard hit by players transferring to high major programs in the last two years, the Colonials went 14-19 last season and saw two more players transfer following the season, including leading scorer Isaiah Still (15.7 ppg.) to Iona. The Colonials' top returner is Dachon Burke, who averaged 7.6 points and almost two steals per game as a freshman. The Broncs own a 9-3 lead in the all-time series with Robert Morris.
For the second time on this season's non-conference docket, the Broncs face a former MAAC Head Coach in Hofstra's Joe Mihalich, who spent 15 seasons at Niagara. The Pride visits Alumni Gym on Dec. 9. Hofstra lost a pair of double-figures scorers to graduation in Deron Powers (13.0 ppg.) and Brian Bernardi (12.0 ppg.), but return a pair of high-powered scorers in Justin Wright-Foreman (18.1 ppg.) and Eli Pemberton (12.8 ppg.). Though the Broncs own a slim 19-18 edge in the all-time series, the two teams have not met since 1991-92.
A second-straight home game is on Dec. 16, when Wagner comes to Lawrenceville. The Broncs have won six of the last seven against the Seahawks, including a 70-67 victory this past Nov. 26 on Staten Island. Wagner returns its top two scorers in Romone Saunders (15.0 ppg.) and Corey Henson (14.6 ppg.), but must replace its top two rebounders – Michael Carey (9.1 rpg.) and Mike Aaman (6.2 rpg.).
The non-conference slate wraps up on Dec. 22, when the Broncs travel to Penn State. The Nittany Lions own a 3-1 advantage in the all-time series. However the one Rider win came in the last meeting in 2007-08. Penn State went 15-18 last season and had a second-round exit from the Big Ten Tournament. The Nittany Lions return all five starters, including their top two scorers in Tony Carr (13.2 ppg.) and Lamar Stevens (12.7 ppg.). The meeting represents a homecoming of sorts for Rider Assistant Coach Ben Luber, who was a four-year point guard and letterwinner at Penn State, where he was a two-year team captain. He ranks among the Nittany Lions' top-10 in career assists and steals.
The full 2017-18 schedule will be available in September.
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