The Richmond Spiders are not out of this thing. After a sub-par non-conference showing, they’ve rolled through conference play and have exceeded expectations. It would take somewhat of a miracle, but if Dayton and VCU collapsed here at the end of the season, Richmond could emerge as the Atlantic 10 regular season champion. Of course, the Spiders don’t control their own destiny, and it’s unlikely that they win out to begin with, but either way, these next couple games are crucial for Richmond. Also, seeding in this year’s A10 Tournament is at stake.
With a road win over La Salle last weekend, the hardest remaining games for Richmond are at home against VCU and on the road against George Mason. Kenpom gives the Spiders a 44% and 43% chance respectively of winning each game, and honestly, both seem doable, though it won’t be easy. Marquise Moore went off for the Patriots when they went into the Robins Center earlier this season, scoring 25 points and pulling in 13 rebounds. The double-double machine should be a first team qualifier this season, and he’ll be going up against the probable A-10 Player of the Year, TJ Cline, in a pivotal rematch on Tuesday night.
George Mason is riding a 3 game winning streak while the Spiders have won their last two. The Patriots shot 52.1% from the field and held the Spiders to 40.5% shooting the last time these two met. This time playing in Fairfax, the Patriots have to feel pretty confident about their chances against the Spiders, but this Richmond team will be looking for revenge. If TJ Cline, who’s had 47 points and 21 rebounds in his last two contests, gets going early and outplays Mason’s stud Marquise Moore, the Spiders could come away with the win on the road.
The next critical game for Richmond is at home against VCU. Though the Spiders have lost their last 4 contests against their city rivals, they played the Rams surprisingly close at the Siegel Center and looked poised to put up a fight at home. While VCU and Dayton are clearly the top two teams in the league, Richmond has been creeping around and waiting for its chance to strike. This game is the opportunity the Spiders have been waiting for.
If Richmond manages to take down George Mason, this game becomes even bigger. A win over VCU then (assuming the Rams don’t lose to Saint Joseph’s at home) would move both teams into a tie for second. Then, the Rams have to finish the season with road tests against Rhode Island and Dayton. The Spiders get Davidson and Saint Louis at home as well as Fordham and Massachusetts on the road. Now it’s clear why these next two games are so crucial for the Richmond Spiders. Find a way to beat George Mason and VCU, and there’s a good chance Richmond finishes at least second overall. That would be big for a team that’s had doubt cast upon it all season long. Certainly, no one saw Richmond contending after that dreadful non-conference showing. But here we are, and if you’re a Spider fan, these next few weeks have to be pretty darn exciting for you.