Let’s talk about the Atlantic 10. Richmond is 6-3 in conference play. What? The Spiders are tied for 2nd, and currently own the tiebreaker over VCU after UR’s big win in the Siegel Center.
The Richmond Spiders have made a complete 180 since a 2-10 start to the regular season. Fans were calling for Chris Mooney’s job, and now, there’s nothing but positives to takeaway from the program; Richmond has won 5 straight games and could legitimately get a double-bye for the A-10 Tournament come March.
Freshmen have been key
It’s no secret that the Spiders have been harnessing some young talent, but it’s noteworthy to see just how vital that talent has been. Grant Golden’s last 5 games are an enormous reason the Spiders sit at 6-3 in conference play. The freshman is averaging 20.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game over that stretch. He topped that off with 24 points against Davidson on Sunday; that included 2/3 shooting from deep. Golden is currently second in the conference in percentage of shots taken, showing that the Spiders trust their freshman unconditionally.
The other freshman who has been playing experienced, poised basketball is point guard Jacob Gilyard. From the top of the key, Gilyard is speedy and has provided some timely threes for the Spiders as of late. Though he struggled to get much going in Richmond’s overtime win against Duquesne, Gilyard has had 5 double-digit scoring performances since the start of league play. Not to mention, he’s been an incredible defender; Gilyard currently ranks 2nd in the Atlantic 10 in steal percentage and has had 6 in two separate games this year.
Nick Sherod is playing like a senior
Again, it’s the young guys that have been getting it done for Richmond. Nick Sherod in particular has put quite the load on his back in Richmond’s recent 5-game winning streak. The sophomore has 6 straight games reaching double-digit scoring and had 28 points against Duquesne on the road. Even though he wasn’t that much of a force in the scoring column on Sunday against Davidson, his 14 rebounds were a massive help.
Having guys like Golden, Sherod, and Gilyard emerge like this is incredibly promising; they’re young guys who are taking down seniors, and they’re picking up the slack from guys like Buckingham and Fore. You have to be thrilled to see other players stepping up when the normal stars have flown a bit further under the radar.
Richmond enters the month of February on a hot streak, yes, but it will continue to be adequately tested. The Spiders face Rhode Island and St. Bonaventure on the road in the coming weeks, and they’ll also get a return game against VCU (at home) where the Rams will likely be seeking revenge. My only concern for this Spiders team is the lack of depth and scoring coming off the bench. The Spiders don’t get many contributions outside of their starting 5, and that could become an issue against more talented teams in the conference.
That said, I have nothing but positive things to say about UR and its month of January. I am extremely impressed with the team’s chemistry and poise despite lack of experience. Richmond has put itself in the position to finish top 4 in the Atlantic 10; it needs a strong finish to league play to achieve that goal, but it seems beyond possible.