Broncs and Peacocks: a brewing rivalry

By Benjamin Shinault

Three weeks have passed since Rider men’s basketball was sent home from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament in Atlantic City, New Jersey. 

This marks the second straight season that the Broncs have failed to escape the quarterfinal round of the tournament and the second time in as many years that they have been defeated by Saint Peter’s despite being the higher seed. 

The loss in the tournament hurts a lot more this year, Rider entering  the tournament on a seven game winning streak to close out the regular season and beat Saint Peter’s in the final game of the regular season in a hard fought and chippy 61-56 victory at Alumni Gym. 

An interesting tidbit about Rider entering the tournament before facing off against Saint Peter’s is that the Broncs always seemed to dominate the Peacocks in the regular season as both times last season and now this season, Rider has swept the regular season series. Over the last four regular season matchups between the two teams, Rider has averaged 69.5 points per game, but when they play under the big lights at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall, the average sinks down to 55 points per game.

Once again delving into the stark differences of regular season play and MAAC tournament play, the Broncs are 44-36 against the Peacocks in the regular season but are 3-7 against them in the postseason with a 2-6 record in the quarterfinal specifically.

“They outplayed us, they outtoughed us, they were more physical,” Head Coach Kevin Baggett said after 2023’s defeat.

Saint Peter’s was known for its stout defense in both years. In 2023, the Peacocks defense was ranked second in the MAAC and 20th in the nation. Now, the 2024 season, the Peacocks defense was second in the MAAC again and 13th in the nation. But how come the Broncs can average close to 70 points in the regular season against the same Peacocks team but can’t translate that same offensive approach in the MAAC tournament? 

That remains unanswered. Baggett also has his history with the MAAC tournament, as his record all-time in tournament play is set at 6-9 and has yet to lead Rider to the championship round. An all-around struggle for each member of the team. 

Tournament play takes grit and no matter the seeding, a team must rise to the occasion. The last time the Broncs won a game in the MAAC tournament was back in 2022 when they took down both Manhattan and top-seeded Iona. After the historic upset of the Gaels, Baggett spoke out about what it meant to win that game and his words spoke profoundly on the fight that team had that year and the fight that Rider has seemed to struggle to find over the last two seasons.

“We keep saying and we’ve kept saying that we believe in this team. Again, this is why we’re up here again tonight because we’ve believed all year long.”

The Broncs have never won the MAAC championship and their last appearance was back in 2008. Rider must learn to utilize its regular season aggressiveness during tournament play, but until then, Rider fans are unlikely to see a banner hanging high in Alumni Gym. 

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