Rider mulls options over next few weeks

By Dylan Manfre

Throughout the entire 2020-2021 season, college basketball teams have felt the full brunt of the pandemic with extensive pauses. The women’s basketball team is about to go on pause for three weeks — and it is not because of COVID-19 on Rider’s end.

Canisius’ women’s basketball team canceled the remainder of its season after only playing five total games in the 2020-2021 season. The Golden Griffins in particular have been one of the league’s most troubled teams when it comes to COVID-19, injuries and health and safety protocols, having not played a game since Dec. 20.

Rider was slated to play Canisius on Feb. 19 and 20 to wrap up its season but since then, the series against Niagara on Feb. 13 and 14 became the regular-season finale. This leaves the Broncs 21 days without a scheduled game until they leave for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) tournament on Mar. 7.

“Three weeks [off] is a long time when you’ve been playing as much as we have, we haven’t really had any weeks off.” Head Coach Lynn Milligan said. “Based on other people’s pauses and things like that, we’ve always been put in there. In that regard, we’ve got to make sure we come up with a good plan for those three weeks to make sure that we keep ourselves sharp.”

Rider has not had a regular-season game canceled because of a positive COVID-19 case in its tier 1 program. It did, however, record a positive case during the preseason period on Oct. 31, but no games were impacted as a result. This is a testament to the Broncs’ diligence to adhere to health and safety protocols for navigating through this unprecedented season.

Milligan said if the opportunity presented itself, she would be open to playing a game during the extensive off period, but did not go into specifics saying, “it depends.”

MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor told The Rider News on Feb. 9 that teams are allowed to seek out games against a conference opponent they have already played. The game can count to the team’s overall record but does not count toward its league record.

Ensor said the league is denoting this type of game as a “nonconference conference game.” These games do count toward the NCAA minimum of 13 games required to be eligible for the NCAA tournament in March.

These games would not affect seeding for the MAAC Tournament in any way, according to Ensor.

“I can suggest teams play each other. There are some opportunities where a couple of teams are not playing on a given weekend, they might want to play a third game,” Ensor said. “I did that with Saint Peter’s [men] last weekend and asked them to play Saturday at Manhattan for that ESPNU game scheduled there, but I can’t require that they do it.”

Milligan was vocal about wanting to incorporate a much-needed break into their schedule especially since Rider has played a total of 23 games as of Feb. 14, so a potential third game against another MAAC team would not come in the first “off week.”

“We do need some rest, there’s not going to be any doubt about that,” Milligan said. “So that first week would be good, but yeah would two weeks [off] be better than three? Probably. But like I said, we’ll come up with a plan and then try to use it to get ourselves better.”

Rider entered the “break” period off a desperation win over Niagara on Feb. 14. The Broncs were down as many as nine in the game and gave up a multitude of offensive surges to the Purple Eagles. Senior forward Daija Moses knocked down two critical 3-pointers in the final quarter in what ended as a 12-point win.

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