We roll on with the Top-50 team countdown and now with only 45 days away from College Basketball beginning, it is time to talk about the Richmond Spiders. Richmond may have been one of the biggest disappointments in College Basketball a season ago. This came as the Spiders dealt with a plethora of injuries, Covid pauses, and horrid losses to lead that disappointment. That said, almost everyone decided to return for another season and it may not be time to give up on this team just yet. The roster is still reminiscent of one that would have made the 2020 NCAA Tournament and is looking to get that long-awaited NCAA Tournament berth.
The backcourt loses Blake Francis who led the team in scoring but most importantly returns Jacob Gilyard. Gilyard runs the point, he’s a high-level passer, elite on-ball defender that is a ball-hawk, and a decent scorer. Gilyard won’t lead the team in scoring but he’s able to do that because he helps the team in many other ways.
Grant Golden will be a great inside piece, he’s a terrific interior scorer, a good passer out of the post, and a good rebounder. Golden isn’t overly athletic but he’s a refreshing throwback, fundamentally sound big man. Nathan Cayo presents another piece on the interior, he’s a solid defender and rebounder that flourished late last season. Tyler Burton presents an ability to stretch the floor on the wing, he’s an inconsistent scorer but has the ability to lead the team in scoring on any given night.
Last season, Nick Sherod was out for the season with an injury but he comes back for this season. Sherod provides an ability to space the floor while being a key cog defensively, which is something the Spiders missed. Andre Gustavson and Connor Crabtree present another guard option off the bench, both can space the floor and will soon be relied upon to move into a bigger role next season.
The Spiders have a good core of players but one question that remains is how exactly do they improve upon last season. For starters, Sherod’s return will provide some floor-spacing, and while not the same offensive threat as Francis, this allows this team to play more in the post. In addition, playing a normal schedule will factor into a natural return to the mean, as with multiple Covid pauses in the way, it was hard to establish any sort of rhythm, which I think was both detrimental to their season and eventually led to players losing focus late in the season.
With a normal year, expect a return to their 2020 form. This team will still be limited due to their lacking athleticism and playmaking ability but the floor is still really high. While fundamentals are oftentimes overlooked, sometimes just having a team that plays the right way while staying connected as a team is all that a team needs and that certainly can be the case for Richmond. I think with a rejuvenated focus and energy, the Spiders will be back in the same position they were entering Conference Tournament week in 2020, as a likely NCAA Tournament bubble team.
PG: Jacob Gilyard
SG: Nick Sherod
SF: Tyler Burton
PF: Nathan Cayo
C: Grant Golden
B1: Andre Gustavson
B2: Connor Crabtree
B3: Matt Grace
B4: Isaiah Wilson