Men's basketball unanimous preseason MAAC favorite
The league's coaches have picked the Rider University men's basketball team, fresh off a MAAC Regular Season Championship in 2017-18, to repeat as league champions, the league office announced during its annual MAAC Preseason Basketball Show Oct. 23 on ESPN3.
The Broncs return all five starters and 95 percent of their scoring from a year ago, including Preseason All-MAAC First Team honorees Dimencio Vaughn and Stevie Jordan, Second Team selection Frederick Scott and Third Team pick Jordan Allen.
The Broncs were the unanimous pick to win the league, receiving all 11 first-place votes. Canisius, Iona, Quinnipiac, Monmouth, Marist, Fairfield, Manhattan, Niagara, Saint Peter's and Siena rounded out the poll.
"I wouldn't say (being the league favorite) makes it tougher," says Rider Head Coach Kevin Baggett. "There's pressure. And I think our guys are doing a good job so far of understanding that you have to come to practice every day ready, that we're going to take every team's best shot this year. Understanding every time we go out on that court, we've got our work cut out. We can't take any days off, any practices off or any games off."
A redshirt sophomore wing, Vaughn went from a talented true freshman who saw his 2016-17 season cut short by injury to an All-MAAC First Team honoree as a redshirt freshman and one of only two unanimous picks to the 2018-19 Preseason All-MAAC First Team. Vaughn scored in double figures in 24-of-29 games last season, the most on the team, and averaged a team-high 16.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.8 steals. He was third on the team in field-goal percentage, while shooting 35.1 percent (27-77) from long range. Vaughn was also among the league leaders in free-throw percentage (76.4 percent) and blocks per game (0.7 bpg).
Joining Vaughn on the Preseason All-MAAC First Team is Jordan, who led the MAAC in assists per game for the second-straight year in 2017-18. Jordan moved into 10th all-time at Rider with 343 assists through two years and became the third-fastest Bronc in the last 25 years to 500 career points, achieving the mark in his 40th game. Jordan started 30-of-31 games played last season, averaging a team-high 32.6 minutes per game. He averaged 12.6 points (14th-MAAC) and 1.6 steals (3rd-MAAC), scoring in in double figures in 22 games. Jordan narrowly missed a triple-double on two occasions, with 14 points, a season-high 12 assists and seven rebounds against Hampton (Nov. 24) and 19 points, nine rebounds and eight assists against Hartford (Nov. 15).
2018 MAAC Sixth Player of the Year and All-MAAC Third Team selection Frederick Scott was elevated to the Preseason All-MAAC Second Team by the league's coaches. Scott led the team at 52.1 percent shooting from the floor (6th-MAAC) and was second in three-point field-goal percentage (.381) last year. He scored in double figures in 23-of-32 games, just one behind Vaughn for most on the team. He averaged 12.8 points (12th-MAAC) and 6.5 rebounds (9th-MAAC) per game, including 2.1 offensive rebounds per game (9th-MAAC). Perhaps his 2017-18 season will be most remembered for his game-winning, buzzer-beating three-pointer in the Broncs' 71-70 road win at Penn State (Dec. 22).
An All-MAAC Third Team and All-Rookie Team selection a year ago, Allen was again picked by the league's coaches on the Preseason All-MAAC Third Team this season. Allen stretched opposing defenses to the tune of a team-leading 38.5 percent (92-239, 14th-MAAC) from beyond the three-point arc last year. His 92 three-point field goals made rank third in program history behind Jerry Johnson (102, 2004-05) and Ron Simpson (98, 1986-87), while his 2.9 three-point field goals made per game ranked fourth in the MAAC. He was second on team at 13.4 points per game, good for 11th in the MAAC, and was one of only two Broncs to start all 32 games.
"We want to go up and win the entire thing," Baggett says. "We fell short this past year. Obviously, we won the regular season and certainly we'd like to win the league again. But our first step would be getting past the quarterfinal, which everybody reminds me of. And then really our ultimate goal is to win the MAAC Tournament and get to the NCAA Tournament. We've won enough games. But now winning the right games, going up there and handling our business, starting from the first game on to that third game if we're in the top five and hopefully winning the MAAC Championship."
The Broncs will host West Chester University in an exhibition on Saturday, Nov. 3, at 4 p.m., before traveling to the University of Central Florida for the season opener on Nov. 6 at 6:30 p.m.