After a 21-win season and a solid NIT showing, the Richmond Spiders appeared poised for a potential NCAA tournament run in 2016 thanks to a roster that returned the majority of its production outside of the diminutive Kendall Anthony and his graduating 16.4 points per game.
Back were three double-digit scorers in Terry Allen (13 ppg), TJ Cline (11.8 ppg) and ShawnDre’ Jones (10.3 ppg). Set to join them was 6’8 three-point-shooting Virginia Tech transfer Marshall Wood.
The pieces were there.
Despite that offensive potential, A-10 voters ranked UofR sixth in their preseason poll, two spots lower than Chris Mooney and Co.’s 2015 regular season finish. I had them fourth and as a dangerous team that I thought could make a legit run at the league title.
We were all wrong.
Turns out the sixth-place ranking was surprisingly generous, as the loss of Anthony and a group of missing Spider role-players resulted in a 7-11 ninth-place A-10 finish, as well as the Spiders’ worst overall record (16-16) since graduating their key production following 2011’s Sweet 16 run.
UofR managed to field a tough offensive unit, boasting the nation’s 10th best two-point offense, but one that needed every bit of that offensive production due to a defense that finished bottom-four in A-10 efficiency. The Spiders ranked second in the conference in turnover margin behind only crosstown rival VCU, but helped negate that advantage with the league’s second worst rebounding unit.
After a solid non-conference showing the Spiders tanked in competitive A-10 games, going 1-8 against kenpom top-100 Atlantic 10 teams.
Long story short: a promising 2015-16 unit somehow managed to find mediocrity while teams like Saint Joseph’s, George Washington and even Fordham, managed to cruise past them.
So what does that mean for next season?
Again, back are talented players like Cline, Jones, Wood and Fore, as well as a promising freshman group highlighted by local product DeMonte Buckingham, but can the Spiders really improve without Terry Allen patrolling the paint? And what does it do to an already bad rebounding team to lose their leading rebounder?
An improvement on a .500 overall finish and sub-.500 conference finish would surprise me with the returning talent to Boatwright Drive.
The Spiders will once again field a strong shooting team but I worry will lack the beef down low to sure up what was an already struggling defense and a very poor rebounding unit. Richmond’s best hope to a successful 2017 March would be to 2014-15 Davidson their through through this upcoming regular season, getting an outstanding year from the Spider backcourt with Cline and Wood stretching defenses as well. But expecting Jones, Fore and some talented freshman to play the roles of Tyler Kalinoski (that season’s A-10 Player of the Year), Jack Gibbs and Brian Sullivan is likely a major stretch.
I think Richmond will be a pesky team in 2016-17 but likely more of a spoiler than an actual threat thanks to losing depth from what was already a team extremely limited in that category.