WASHINGTON — Good luck getting a bead on these Richmond Spiders.
The University of Richmond had two losing streaks of five or more games this season but also had a five-game win streak with quality victories over Davidson and VCU. The Spiders navigated a tough early season schedule about as well as one could reasonably expect from a team with six freshmen and only one scholarship senior, losing to good mid-majors like Vermont, Louisiana and Old Dominion, along with both games to ranked opponents (Cincinnati and conference foe Rhode Island).
Yet Richmond won their last two regular season games to finish 11-19 (9-9 in conference) and earn the seven seed in the A-10 tournament. The Spiders saved some of their best performances for last, rolling UMass by 25 points, then shooting 62 percent to beat late-game darlings George Mason by 14 on Saturday.
Richmond opens its conference tournament run Thursday against Duquesne, an opponent the Spiders beat by just four points in overtime back in January. If they can repeat that feat, they’ll face 2-seed St. Bonaventure, who beat Richmond 97-88 in February. That despite forward Grant Golden and guard Nick Sherod combining to score 50 points — the Spiders will require a more balanced attack to complete the upset.
Speaking of Golden, he’s a great story for Richmond. The Spiders’ leading scorer (16 points per game) has rebounded well from a scary cardiac issue that led to a medical redshirt season as a freshman, adding 6.6 rebounds per game (ranked second on the team) and a team-leading 1.3 blocks per game (which ranks fourth in the conference). Richmond goes as Golden goes.
That’s not to say it’s a one-man band. Point guard Jacob Gilyard has been a strong presence on the defensive end; his 2.77 steals per game rank second in the A-10 and he leads the conference in steals-to-turnover ratio per game (1.66) and steals per personal foul (1.54). Sherod’s .406 3-point percentage ranks seventh in the A-10, but Richmond will need perimeter shooting from other sources to balance out their strong play in the paint.
Should the Spiders get past Duquesne and St. Bonaventure, the path to the A-10 final is clear. Assuming no other upsets on Richmond’s end of the bracket, they’d have a favorable semifinal matchup with 3-seed Davidson (the Spiders have won the last four meetings with the Wildcats) before the likely task of playing Rhode Island, who has won four of the last five in the series with the Spiders.
The bottom line is it shouldn’t be a surprise if Richmond went one-and-done or if the Spiders upset their way to the finals. If, come Sunday, the A-10 tournament bracket is thrown out of whack, Spiders will probably be the reason why.
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