It’s March 6th, 2020, and the University of Richmond Spiders Men’s basketball team has just concluded its season, ready to travel to Brooklyn, New York for the Atlantic 10 Tournament. The team has won nine out of their final ten games, leading many to believe an NCAA bid is inevitable. Unfortunately, the pandemic hit, and that trip to Brooklyn was never made, robbing the Spiders of their tournament spot.
Fast forward to March 6th, 2022. Richmond just dropped their last game of the year to St. Bonaventure, concluding a 10-8 in-conference season. Preseason favorites to finish 2nd in the conference, the veteran squad finished 6th. Gilyard, Golden, Sherod, and Cayo, dubbed “ The Geriatrics,” had likely fallen short of the tournament yet again, with the exception of a run in DC.
The experienced group started the Atlantic 10 tournament playing arguably their worst half of the season against 10th ranked Rhode Island. The team came out and continued to scrap in the second half, sparked by a huge Matt Grace block, and crafty Grant Golden post moves. They managed to fight back and win 64-59.
Following the poor performance in the second round, the Richmond vets turned it on and never looked back. Jacob Gilyard was the fire starter for the next three games (VCU, Dayton, Davidson). Absolutely unconscious from deep, Gilyard hit 12 of his 27 three-point shot attempts. Unsurprisingly, he was also outstanding defensively, snatching 10 steals in the three games. As a whole, Richmond exceeded all expectations playing at their best defensively all season. They held the Rams, Flyers, and Wildcats to 44% shooting from the field and forced 32 turnovers. This core group of players showed no quit at any point in the tournament, erasing a 14 point deficit against Dayton, and a 5 point deficit with 1:22 left against Davidson.
Succeeding the insane run in the A10 tournament, the now 12 seeded Spiders were selected to play the 5 seeded, Big 10 champ Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa was not prepared for the combination of Jacob Gilyard and Tyler Burton. Each had phenomenal games scoring a combined 42 of Richmond’s 67 points. Stifling perimeter defense sealed the deal for the cinderellas, holding the Hawkeyes to 20% from deep on 6 of 29 attempts. Not only was it a massive win for Richmond, it was the 5th against the Big Ten for Atlantic 10 programs.
Unfortunately, all good things have to come to an end. Richmond ran into redhot Providence in the second round and had no answer for their onslaught of deep balls. Providence went a ridiculous 12 of 22 from beyond the arch, compared to 1 of 22 for Richmond. Burton and Gilyard were held to a combined 9 points on 1 of 12 shooting. Nathan Cayo tried his very best to keep Richmond alive with 18 on 9 of 11 shots, but his efforts were not enough. The fatigued Spiders fell 79-51 to the Big East foe, capping off an enthralling March run.
After disappointing 2020-21 and 2021-22 regular seasons, a billboard calling for Coach Chris Mooney’s head, the loss of Blake Francis, and a second ACL tear for Nick Sherod, Richmonds’ chances at the tourney looked bleak. The senior Spider squad dug deep and finished an immaculate A10 tournament run, punching their ticket like many argued they would have in 2020. A10 Twitter could make the geriatric jokes all season long, but Golden, Cayo, Gilyard, Sherod, Gustavson, Burton, and Grace proved that they deserved to be there all along, and did so with an exclamation point win over the Big10 Champs. An NCAA bid in the coming years looks grim for the Spiders losing 3 starters Gilyard, Cayo, and Golden. Potentially returning Gustavson, Grace, and Burton could provide a formidable squad next year. One thing is for certain, Coach Mooney will be the Spider coach indefinitely, deservingly so. Congratulations Spiders on a phenomenal March ride.